Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week distanced his state from the Biden administration’s efforts to vaccinate young children against COVID-19, calling the government’s plans a “convoluted vaccine distribution process.”
The Republican governor said that no state resources will be dedicated to getting children under 5 the shots in a decision that amplifies continuing disagreements between DeSantis and President Joe Biden.
“There is not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Thursday. “That’s not something that we think is appropriate, and so that’s not where we are going to be utilizing our resources.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday confirmed that Florida was the only state that did not pre-order shots for the age group made available by the Biden administration.
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“By being the only state not-pre-ordering, pediatricians, for example, in Florida will not have immediate ready access to vaccines,” Jean-Pierre said. “Some pharmacies and community health centers in the state get access through federal distribution channels, but those options are limited for parents.”
The Florida Department of Health defended the decision, adding that doctors could still order the shots on their own.
The department in March became the only state to recommend against COVID-19 vaccination for healthy children ages 5-11.
“Our Department of Health has been very clear, the risk outweighs the benefits and we recommend against it,” said DeSantis, who has emerged as a possible candidate in the 2024 presidential election. “That’s not the same as banning it. People can access it if they want to.”
The Biden administration made 10 million shots available to states to pre-order. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday granted emergency use authorization to the shots from Pfizer and Moderna. Before shots can begin, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the director must recommend the vaccines. The CDC’s vaccine advisory group is scheduled to vote on the recommendation Saturday afternoon, while the director’s endorsement is expected soon after.