Florida doctors will be able to order COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 from the federal government, the White House said Friday, after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state would not order or distribute the vaccines in the state.
The state was the only jurisdiction in the nation that refused to pre-order pediatric vaccines, who received the authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on Friday. Final clearance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected in the coming days, clearing the way for the last remaining unvaccinated age group to get their shots. The vaccines will be available for children from 6 months.
The White House has been highly critical of DeSantis position but in a statement on Friday he welcomed the news that he was allowing individual doctors to order vaccinations for their patients.
“We have begun shipping vaccines to children’s hospitals and pediatricians in every state in the country except Florida,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 coordinator. “The governor’s failure comes at a price for Florida parents and families.”
The injections will be readily available at pharmacies and community health centers, which can pre-order them directly from the federal government, Jha said. But children’s hospitals, clinics and individual doctor’s offices will be at a disadvantage compared to other states that have allowed their doctors to make advance orders, he said.
Jha criticized DeSantis, who has frequently said he is upholding the rights of parents in educational and health care decisions, saying, “This administration trusts parents.”
“We know that there are parents across the United States of children under the age of 5 who have been waiting for a long time, and for many of them, this delay introduced by the actions of the governor and the Department of Health, I think is inconceivable,” he said. . he said she. “I don’t think it will help and I think for the parents who have been waiting, who have made the choice, it’s up to us to make sure that they can exercise that choice.”
DeSantis at Thursday’s news conference downplayed the delays and defended the state’s refusal to mandate the vaccines.
“Doctors can get it. Hospitals can get it. But there is not going to be any state program that is trying to vaccinate infants, toddlers and newborns against COVID,” she said. “That’s not where we’re going to use our resources.”
Federal officials believe most parents of young children plan to get their children vaccinated at their pediatrician’s office, rather than at pharmacies or hospitals, and criticized DeSantis for delaying access to shots.
“Even though Governor DeSantis has changed course and is now ordering vaccines, we will do everything we can to get Florida pediatricians vaccinated as quickly as possible,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “This is an encouraging first step, and we urge the state to mandate vaccines for their state and local health departments, so all Florida parents have the opportunity to have their children vaccinated.”
DeSantis’ decision not to order vaccines in advance means the state is falling behind on advance orders that were set to ship as soon as the FDA issued its emergency use authorization. Jha said the administration was working to meet Florida’s requests as soon as possible, but said he would be days behind other states on the vaccination schedule.
Florida Department of Health spokesman Jeremy Redfern said Florida’s online portal for ordering vaccines from the federal government, Florida SHOTS, has always been available to small hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices.
However, under CDC rules, providers can order vaccines only once an emergency use authorization has been issued, Redfern said. Jha disputed that, saying that outside of Florida, states and public health departments have been able to help doctors and children’s hospitals pre-order vaccines for two weeks.
State health departments, on the other hand, have been able to order vaccines in advance of an EUA, and this is what Florida has refused to do. That means the state will not have a pre-existing stockpile of vaccine to send to children’s hospitals for use on Day 1 of authorization. However, any provider can request vaccinations and receive them within days or a week, according to the state health department.
“Florida SHOTS will allow individual providers to order immunizations as they always have,” Redfern said. “The Florida department of health is not going to be the federal government’s storage unit for its huge stack of vaccines.”
While DeSantis said the state had a sufficient supply of vaccines, officials cautioned that vaccines approved for children under 5 contain specialized instructions and syringes appropriate for that age group, and that vaccines labeled for older children should not be used for the younger cohort. Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine for young children has a lower dose than for older children.
This story originally appeared on Los Angeles Times.