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 and distribute the shots in the state. The state was the only one in the country to refuse to place advance orders for the paediatric shots, which the Food and Drug Administration approved on Friday.
Final authorization 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 obtain shots. Children as young as six months will be able to receive the vaccines. The White House has been sharply critical of DeSantis’ position but in a statement Friday it welcomed the news that he was permitting individual doctors to order vaccines for their patients.
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“We have begun shipping vaccines to children’s hospitals and paediatricians in every state in the country except Florida,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr Ashish Jha. “The governor’s failure comes at a price to parents and families of Florida.”
According to Jha, the vaccines will be readily available at pharmacies and community health centres, which will be able to order them directly from the federal government. But children’s hospitals, clinics and individual doctors’ offices will be at a disadvantage to other states that allowed their doctors to preorder, he said. “This administration trusts parents,” Jha said, referring to DeSantis, who has frequently stated that he is defending parental rights in healthcare and educational decisions.
“We know there are parents across America of kids under 5 who’ve been waiting a very long time, and for many of them, this delay introduced by the actions of the governor and the Department of Health, I think is unconscionable,” he said. “I don’t think it helps and I think for parents who’ve been waiting, who have made the choice, it is incumbent on us to make sure that they are able to exercise on that choice.”
At a press conference on Thursday, DeSantis downplayed the delays and defended the state’s refusal to order the vaccines. “Doctors can get it. It is available in hospitals. But there’s not going to be any state programmes that are going to be trying to get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns,” he said. “We’re not going to use our resources in that way.”
Most parents of young children, according to federal officials, plan to get their children vaccinated at their paediatrician’s office rather than pharmacies or hospitals, and DeSantis has been chastised for slowing access to the shots. “Even though Governor DeSantis switched direction and is now mandating immunizations, we will pull every lever to deliver paediatricians across Florida vaccines as swiftly as possible,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
“This is a positive starting step, and we urge the state to place an order for vaccines for its state and local health departments so that all Florida parents can get their children vaccinated.”DeSantis’ decision not to pre-order shots means the state is falling behind pre-orders that were prepared to ship as soon as the FDA issued its emergency use authorization.
Jha said the administration was striving to fill Florida’s orders as soon as possible, but acknowledged it would be days behind other states in the immunisation programme. Florida SHOTS, the state’s online platform for buying vaccines from the federal government, has always been available to hospitals, clinics, and small doctor’s offices, according to Florida health department spokesman Jeremy Redfern.
However, according to CDC guidelines, doctors can only purchase vaccines after receiving an Emergency Use Authorization, according to Redfern. Jha contradicted that, noting that outside of Florida, states and public health departments had been able to help doctors and children’s hospitals place pre-orders for injections for two weeks.
State health departments, on the other hand, have been able to pre-order vaccines in anticipation of a EUA, and this is what Florida has declined to do. That means the state won’t have an already existing stockpile of the vaccines to push out to children’s hospitals for use on Day 1 of authorization. According to the state health agency, any practitioner can order injections and have them within days or weeks.
“Florida SHOTS will allow individual providers to order shots the way they always have,” Redfern said. “The Florida Department of Health will not serve as a storage facility for the federal government’s massive vaccine stockpile.” While DeSantis stated the state has enough supply for vaccines, experts noted that doses designated for under-5 youngsters have particular instructions and syringes intended for that age group and that vaccines branded for older kids shouldn’t be utilised for the youngest cohort. Pfizer’s paediatric vaccine has a lower dose for younger children than for older children.
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