Florida has not ordered doses of coronavirus vaccines for very young children from the federal government, state officials said Thursday, arguing the state didn’t need to be involved in what they called a “complicated vaccine distribution process.”
It wasn’t immediately clear to what extent Florida’s decision would hinder the distribution of the vaccines in the state in the coming days.
The Florida Department of Health said in a statement it has not placed a pre-order for the pediatric vaccines, in part because “the federal government has a track record of developing inconsistent and unsustainable Covid-19 policies.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a news conference Thursday that Florida was the only state that abstained from pre-ordering the pediatric shots. Other states have ordered millions of doses, which could be available for use next week. The deadline for pre-orders was Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services.
An expert advisory panel created by the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously on Wednesday to recommend the use of the Moderna vaccine for children 6 months to 5 years of age and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 6 months to 4 years of age. . The agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to take action in the coming days.
In a statement released Thursday, the Florida Health Department said doctors can order the vaccines as needed. But Ms. Jean-Pierre said the state’s failure to pre-order meant that Florida pediatricians “don’t have immediate access to vaccines.”
Michael Ganio, the senior director of pharmacy practices and quality at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, said that if the state doesn’t order doses, Florida suppliers won’t be able to get them through state channels. Some can order them directly from the federal government.
Pharmacies that participated in a federal program have been able to do so, as have federally supported community health clinics. Biden administration officials were looking for ways to distribute doses to other Florida suppliers if the state continued to oppose ordering on its own, according to government officials who were not authorized to discuss the schedule publicly. A spokesman for CVS Health, one of the country’s largest drugstore chains, said Thursday that the company would order doses for its stores from the federal government.
Families can check pharmacy websites to check supplies, as well as vaccins.gov, a federal site that tracks availability. As doses ship and make their way to pharmacies and other sites, the federal site will be gradually updated to show where they are, an official said.
The Florida Health Department is headed by the State Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican. dr. Ladapo has often expressed skepticism about coronavirus vaccines, strongly opposes masking mandates and lockdowns, and has made a number of false or misleading claims about the coronavirus, including that face masks don’t stop its spread and that the infections it causes are less deadly than those from flu.
The department said in its statement it chose not to participate in the distribution of pediatric vaccine doses because it does not believe healthy children should receive the injections. That stance, which the department has taken since March, contradicts CDC guidelines, which have urged parents to have their eligible children vaccinated, regardless of whether they are healthy or have medical conditions that make them particularly vulnerable. Children 5 years and older are already eligible.
Mr. DeSantis said at a news conference Thursday that there would be no state-run programs in Florida to vaccinate young children, and that while parents were free to choose, the state recommended not vaccinating them.