Jun 17, 2022 - Health

White House: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to allow COVID vaccines for kids

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at an event. Photo: Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will allow health care providers to order COVID-19 vaccines from a federal program for children between six months and 5 years old, the White House confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: Florida is the only state that did not pre-order COVID vaccines for young children. DeSantis this week said the state was "affirmatively against the COVID vaccine for young kids."

Representatives for DeSantis said the state would continue to not be involved in the "the pre-ordering or distribution of the vaccine for children under 5 but DeSantis spokesperson Bryan Griffin said the state had "never held the position that the state would prohibit healthcare providers from ordering the vaccine."

Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis, said Friday that Florida "is not placing any orders of covid shots for 0-5 year old babies & kids."

  • Griffin pointed to a press conference DeSantis gave on Thursday where he said parents could access the vaccine if they wanted to, but the state's health department would continue to recommend against the vaccine for small children.

What they're saying: "We are encouraged that after repeated failures by Governor DeSantis to order COVID-19 vaccines even after every other state had ordered, the State of Florida is now permitting health care providers to order COVID-19 vaccines for our youngest children," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement emailed to Axios.

  • "We believe it is critical to allow parents everywhere to have the choice to get their kids vaccinated and have a conversation with their pediatrician or health care provider," Jean-Pierre said.
  • "This is an encouraging first step, and we urge the state to order vaccines for its state and local health departments, so that all Florida parents have the opportunity to get their children vaccinated," Jean-Pierre said.

In a call with reporters, COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said most pediatricians in the country could order vaccines yesterday "except for pediatricians of Florida."

  • "As of today, pediatricians of Florida now have that choice. Whether that's a reversal or not, I will leave it up to you to decide. But something clearly changed between yesterday and today."

Catch up quick: Florida Department of Health said earlier this week that it had not pre-ordered COVID vaccines for children, because it does not recommend the shot for all children. Multiple states are waiting for federal regulators to approve the shot for the youngest Americans.

DeSantis doubled down on the state's recommendation against vaccines for young children, saying Florida did not plan to offer vaccines for toddlers and infants through state programs, Axios' Shawna Chen writes.

Go deeper ... DeSantis: Florida is "affirmatively against" COVID vaccines for young kids

Editor's note: This story has been updated responses from Gov. Ron DeSantis' office and a statement from COVID response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha

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