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Ladapo pushes back on House subcommittee's criticism of Florida's handling of vaccines for kids

The Surgeon General met with the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis to discuss Florida's decision not to pre-order COVID vaccines for children under 5.

FLORIDA, USA — The Florida Department of Health pushed back Wednesday against a press release published online by the U.S. House's Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

In a letter, the department took issue with the committee's characterization that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had attempted to "hinder coronavirus vaccinations for young children" by not preordering shots for kids under 5.

Florida's Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, and representatives of the Florida Department of Health met with staff of the subcommittee Tuesday. On Wednesday, the subcommittee issued a press release, detailing what it described as Florida's "intentional failure."

“The steps Governor DeSantis has taken to impede access to lifesaving coronavirus vaccines for Florida’s young children have made it harder for parents across the state to get their children vaccinated, and his promotion of anti-vaccine misinformation is making it harder for parents to make fully informed decisions on how best to protect children’s health,” Chairman of the subcommittee, Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, wrote in the press release.

In a response letter, Ladapo wrote that the information in the press release contained “blatantly false statements” that would create confusion among the public.

So, what did the press release say?

The release states that, during Tuesday's meeting, Ladapo confirmed Florida did not allow pediatricians or other health care providers to order vaccines for young children through Florida SHOTS, the state’s vaccine ordering system, until after the FDA granted emergency use authorization on June 17.

It goes on to say Ladapo confirmed the state's decision not to let health care providers order vaccinations before that date might have caused a short delay in availability.

In the response letter, Ladapo said the FDOH did not limit vaccine access in Florida at any point, but instead opted out of the pre-order process due to a low demand for pediatric COVID-19 vaccines and the pre-order process being difficult and no longer necessary.

“By simply allowing providers to determine their individual needs, rather than assuming demand, direct ordering allows for more efficient resource management and distribution,” Ladapo's response letter read.

The FDOH permitted private providers to order the vaccine as soon as June 17 when the EUA was issued by the FDA, Ladapo wrote. Additionally, private providers can’t order any vaccines from the CDC if they haven’t been approved.

Providers began receiving orders as early as June 21, according to the letter.

“Which is further evidence for why the pre-ordering process is not needed,” Ladapo wrote. “States that pre-ordered this vaccine will likely be left holding a significant amount of product due to the lack of demand."

In a May survey, the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found that only about one in five parents of kids under 5 were eagle to get their children vaccinated right away.

Providers across the state have said they’re on track for a quick rollout for parents who do. Back on June 20, Joseph Perno, vice president of Medical Affairs at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, told 10 Tampa Bay that receiving the vaccine for young kids the week of June 20 didn’t seem to have a major impact.

But, the subcommittee takes issue with Florida's handling of the rollout for the state's youngest residents, claiming that DeSantis and the state "continue to promote anti-vaccine misinformation" by not recommending the vaccine for all minors.

To be clear: The Florida Department of Health's COVID-19 vaccine guidance, reads as follows: 

"Based on currently available data, healthy children aged 5 to 17 may not benefit from receiving the currently available COVID-19 vaccine. The Department recommends that children with underlying conditions are the best candidates for the COVID-19 vaccine," the FDOH writes on its website.

In his response letter, Ladapo affirmed this stance. He wrote that there are no data proving the vaccine is more effective than the placebo in reducing severe illness in young children. Ladapo also said the data regarding the safety of the COVID vaccine is inadequate.

The subcommittee’s press release also stated that more than 30,000 children under 5 in Florida may not have access to coronavirus vaccines because county health departments in Florida “cannot” order or administer COVID vaccines to young kids. However, Ladapo wrote that Florida has always ensured COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, and the county health department doesn’t offer these services because COVID-19 response has been shifted back to private providers since last year.

While young children are as likely to get COVID-19 as adults, they are less likely to become severely ill, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, certain medical conditions may increase their risk of infection – including asthma, obesity, diabetes and genetic conditions.

Babies under age 1 may be at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19, according to Mayo Clinic. There is also evidence that indicates a correlation between multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a serious condition where some parts of the body become severely inflamed, and past infection of COVID-19.

Read Dr. Ladapo's letter below. Click here to read the press release from the U.S. House subcommittee.

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