Florida State. Ron DeSantis (right) escalates his feud with the White House over the COVID-19 response as he prepares himself for a possible presidential campaign in 2024.
DeSantis has been under fire for his decision not to pre-order the federal government for COVID-19 vaccines for infants and young children.
The White House initially made 10 million vaccines for young children available to states for pre-order in anticipation that the shots would get the green light from federal regulators.
Having a small stock of shots on hand means shots can be started soon after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved their use.
But Florida was the only state that decided not to apply.
During a press conference Thursday, DeSantis said the children had “virtually no risk” of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 and that the state would not allocate any resources to vaccinate them.
Doctors can get it. Hospitals can get it. But there won’t be any government programs that will attempt to get COVID vaccines for infants, young children, and newborns.” “This is not where we are going to use our resources.”
White House officials have accused DeSantis of denying parents the right to choose whether their children will be vaccinated.
“The state of Florida deliberately missed multiple deadlines for requesting vaccines to protect its young children,” Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters on Friday.
“Now, despite repeated efforts to reach out and engage Florida officials, elected officials have deliberately chosen to delay action to deny Florida parents the choice of whether or not to vaccinate their children,” Jha said.
DeSantis has spent much of the pandemic attacking the Biden administration’s efforts to mitigate COVID-19.
The Sunshine state’s governor has made it a point of pride to question and challenge a set of federal guidelines, and has repeatedly promoted the state’s “freedom” without policies like mask or vaccine mandates.
The Florida Department of Health is led by Surgeon General Joseph Ladabo, a DeSantis appointee who has openly questioned the safety and usefulness of COVID-19 vaccines.
In March, Florida became the first state to recommend that healthy children and teens ages 5 to 17 not be vaccinated.
Although federal agencies and national health groups recommend vaccinating young children, DeSantis suggested that the vaccines haven’t undergone sufficient testing to ensure they are safe for use in children.
“Our Department of Health has been very clear, the risks outweigh the benefits and we recommend that you do not,” DeSantis said.
However, he noted, the state has not prevented any doctor or hospital from ordering what they might need.
The Florida Department of Health said it was only choosing not to participate in the “complex” federal vaccine distribution process, “particularly when the federal government has a track record of developing inconsistent and unsustainable policies on the coronavirus.”
The agency assures that there will be no delay in providers getting the doses if they want any.
There was more finger-pointing on Friday, after the White House implied that DeSantis had bowed to and reversed public pressure by allowing pediatricians and other providers to order vaccinations.
Yesterday, pediatricians in every state in the country could order vaccinations or had the opportunity to order vaccinations for their offices, except for pediatricians in Florida. “As of today, pediatricians in Florida now have that option,” Jha said.
“Whether it’s a reversal or not, I’ll leave the decision up to you. But something has clearly changed between yesterday and today in Florida.
But Florida Department of Health spokesman Jeremy Redfern said nothing had changed and that the plan all along was to allow providers to start ordering from the state’s online portal as soon as the Food and Drug Administration authorized the shots.
Redfern said Florida refuses to be the Biden administration’s repository for unused vaccines. Once the doctor’s office or hospital knew what his demand was, he said, he was free to make an order with the state.
Lisa Gwen, president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, accused the DeSantis administration of playing political games.
“Look at all the attention this whole thing has brought to our wallets,” she said.
Gwen said it wasn’t clear if he would allow doctors to order vaccines so quickly.
“The challenge that’s worrying us right now is that we’re the last to ask, we’ll be the last to get,” Gwen said.
“We could have started vaccinating our kids this week. But now we have to wait until July. You know, I mean, kids can still get sick. Kids can bring it home and give it to family members,” she added.