Florida to recommend against COVID-19 vaccines for 'healthy children'

Florida will soon advise against COVID-19 vaccination for healthy children, making it the first state to go against CDC guidance.

"The Florida Department of Health is going to be the first state to officially recommend against the COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children," Joseph Ladapo, MD, PhD, the state's surgeon general, said during a March 7 roundtable hosted by Gov. Ron DeSanitis titled "The Curtain Close on COVID Theater." 

"We're kind of scraping at the bottom of the barrel, particularly with healthy kids," Dr. Ladapo said, following earlier comments with other panelists citing lower infection rates among children than adults and studies suggesting rapidly waning vaccine protection against infection. The panelists did not expand on what they consider to be healthy children. 

The state's position goes against the CDC, which recommends everyone ages 5 years and older get vaccinated against COVID-19. The agency's website states that of the nearly 28 million children aged 5-11 in the U.S., nearly 2 million have contracted COVID-19, adding that it ranks as one of the top 10 causes of death for children in this age group. 

The round-table set off a stream of backlash from health experts. 

In response to Dr. Ladapo's announcement made during the roundtable, Florida's chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics reiterated support of vaccination for all eligible children over the age of 5. 

"The COVID-19 vaccine is our best hope for ending the pandemic," said Lisa Gwynn, DO, president of Florida's AAP chapter. 

"The Surgeon General's comments today misrepresent the benefits of the vaccine, which has been proven to prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and long-term symptoms from COVID-19 in children and adolescents, including those who are otherwise healthy. The evidence is clear that when people are vaccinated, they are significantly less likely to get very sick and need hospital care. There is widespread consensus among medical and public health experts about the life-saving benefits of this vaccine." 

In a series of tweets following the news in Florida, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, said that while kids are at lower risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19 compared to adults, "lower risk doesn't mean no risk. We've lost hundreds of kids to COVID. Thousands have been hospitalized, including previously healthy kids, [and] have had serious complications leading to organ damage." 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a media briefing that Dr. Ladapo's recommendation is "absolutely not" a good policy. 

"The FDA and CDC have already weighed in on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines for those 5 and older," Ms. Psaki said. The recommendations are vetted transparently through a process, with a purpose so that parents can have confidence, after consulting with their pediatricians or doctors if they would like, about the safety."  

 

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