(As originally published with additional sound, Fri, June 17th 2022, 3:10 PM EDT)
WASHINGTON (CBS12) — Florida’s stance toward Covid-19 vaccines for children stirred up a war of words with the White House.
Friday, the Biden administration announced Florida will let doctors directly order the shots for children under 5 from the federal government.
That came after Gov. Ron DeSantis controversially said the state would neither order nor distribute them.
Every other state had preordered children’s vaccines, anticipating their final approval from the feds.
Covid vaccinations for children under 5 are expected to begin next week. Earlier Friday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of Moderna and Pfizer’s versions. That let the companies begin shipping millions of preordered doses across the country.
DeSantis explained his position on Thursday, in a news conference streamed live on CBS12.com.
“Our Department of Health has been very clear,” DeSantis said. “The risks outweigh the benefits, and we recommend against.”
“Doctors can get it. Hospitals can get it. But there’s not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to get Covid jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns,” the governor continued. “That’s not where we’re gonna be utilizing our resources.”
Then, he blamed the media for “hysteria.”
Last year, DeSantis appointed state surgeon general Dr. Joseph Ladapo who announced in March that Florida would become the first state to officially recommend against healthy children receiving the Covid vaccine.
Doctors pushed back.
“To hear that our top doc in Florida is suggesting we deny our children access to vaccines that could potentially keep them from getting ill and hospitalized and dying is ridiculous,” said Dr. Kitonga Kiminyo, an infectious disease specialist who is part of the T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society.
Ladapo has also spoken out against wearing masks to protect from Covid, famously smiling and holding one up when the governor pushed to “protect health care workers from having their licensure revoked for simply exercising their right of free speech.”
He also participated when DeSantis held a roundtable called “The Curtain Close on Covid Theater” with supportive doctors.
Last summer, DeSantis launched the effort to keep school districts from requiring students to wear masks, which ultimately became law in a special session.
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said she’s “encouraged” by the news from Florida.
“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 wrote in a statement.
The issue ignited a firestorm on social media after the White House Press Secretary called the news a reversal.
“Even though Gov. DeSantis reversed course and is now ordering vaccines, we will pull every lever to get pediatricians across Florida vaccines as quickly as possible. 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.”
Christina Pushaw, the press secretary for Gov. DeSantis fired back on Twitter.
“The Biden Administration got caught in a lie (or made a mistake) and is now grasping at straws instead of owning up to their mistake. Nothing changed between yesterday and today in terms of state policy in Florida. But it’s weird anyone would be able to order a shot before EUA.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to sign off on the vaccinations, over the weekend.
Friday morning, a rival in the race for governor had harsh words for DeSantis about Florida being the only state that did not preorder Covid-19 vaccines for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
“Gov. DeSantis is once again putting children at risk for political gain, pushing an anti-science agenda,” said Nikki Fried, Florida’s commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“Not only is his Department of Health not recommending lifesaving vaccines for kids — against mainstream public health guidance — they are taking away parents’ rights to protect their children,” she added. “This is a dangerous decision that we know will hurt underserved communities the most.”
The shots would still have been available at Florida pharmacies, which can preorder them directly from the federal government.
Fried is running for governor in the Democratic primary, to be held in August. Her main opponent is Rep. Charlie Crist. The winner will try to replace DeSantis, a Republican, in November’s general election.