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Florida rejected COVID vaccine for young children. That doesn't mean you can't get it.

 In this file photo, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo speaks before a bill signing by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Nov. 18, 2021, in Brandon.
Chris O'Meara
In this file photo, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo speaks before a bill signing by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Nov. 18, 2021, in Brandon.

Florida is the only state in the country that did not request COVID-19 vaccine from the federal government to give to young children. But that doesn't mean the vaccine won't be available.

Parents still can get the vaccine from doctors or from pharmacies that partner with the federal government, such as CVS.

Demand for the vaccine could delay when it's available, but Florida's refusal to order vaccine is not the reason, said Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention at UF Health Jacksonville.

"I would anticipate the doctor’s offices and clinics and anywhere you would take your child to get vaccinated ... probably give them a couple of weeks for the supply chains to work out what they need to work out, and then they’ll be available,” Neilsen said Thursday on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross.

The Florida Department of Health, under the leadership of state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, says it doesn’t recommend the shots for healthy children.

Ladapo said this week that there is insufficient proof that the vaccine is beneficial for young children. He has been a longtime critic of vaccines for adults as well. He signed a petition in July 2021 urging the FDA not to give the Pfizer vaccine its final approval without further clinical trials.

Ladapo's opinion conflicts with that of experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which said Wednesday that vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are safe and effective for children ages 6 months and older. The agency is poised to authorize Moderna's vaccine for children younger than 6 and Pfizer's for younger than 5.

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are likely to consider the issue over the weekend, the final step in the approval process. Shots could be available to young children as soon as Tuesday.

Florida has stuck to its skepticism, however. The deadline for placing a preorder with the federal government was Tuesday. All 49 states except Florida met the deadline.

The Florida Department of Health said the decision against preordering should not have been a surprise, given the state's position on vaccines.

“States do not need to be involved in the convoluted vaccine distribution process, especially when the federal government has a track record of developing inconsistent and unsustainable COVID-19 policies,” the department said in a statement.

DeSantis reiterated that position Thursday.

"There's not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to, you know, get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns," DeSantis said at a news conference in South Florida. "That's not something that we think is appropriate, and so that's not where we're going to be utilizing our resources in that regard."

Nielsen, at UF Health, said he expects that the American Academy of Pediatrics will recommend that young children do get vaccinated. He said parents should talk with their pediatricians about whether their children should get the shot.

You can hear the full interview with Nielsen here.

Copyright 2022 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

Michelle Corum
Michelle Corum joined WJCT as "Morning Edition" host in 2012 and brought with her more than 10 years of experience as an announcer and reporter for public radio stations in Lawrence, Kansas, and Interlochen, Michigan.
Randy Roguski