(The Hill) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) escalates his feud with the White House over the COVID-19 response as he positions himself for a possible presidential campaign in 2024.
DeSantis has come under fire for his decision not to pre-order COVID-19 vaccines for infants and young children from the federal government.
The White House initially made 10 million vaccines for young children available for states to preorder in anticipation of a green light from federal regulators. Having a small supply of doses on hand means that injections can start being given soon after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approves their use.
But Florida was the only state that decided not to place an order.
At a press conference on Thursday, DeSantis argued that the children had “virtually no risk” of becoming seriously ill from COVID, so the state will not devote any resources to getting them vaccinated.
“Doctors can get it. Hospitals can get it. But there will be no state programs that attempt to send COVID injections to infants, toddlers and newborns,” DeSantis said to cheers from the crowd in attendance. “That’s not where we’re going to use our resources.”
White House officials have accused DeSantis of taking away parents’ right to choose whether to have their children vaccinated.
“The State of Florida intentionally missed several deadlines to order vaccines to protect its youngest children,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters on Friday.
“Now, despite repeated efforts to reach out and engage Florida state officials, elected officials have deliberately chosen to delay taking action to deny Florida parents the choice of whether or not to have their children vaccinated,” Jha said.
DeSantis has spent much of the pandemic attacking the Biden administration’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
The Sunshine State governor has made a point of questioning and questioning a series of federal directives, repeatedly promoting the “freedom” of a state without policies such as mask mandates or of vaccine.
The Department of Health is led by Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, a DeSantis appointee who has openly questioned the safety and benefits of COVID-19 vaccines.
In March, Florida became the first state to recommend against vaccinating healthy children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 17. The state has issued guidelines stating that these children “may not benefit from the currently available COVID-19 vaccination.”
Even though federal agencies and national health groups recommend vaccinating young children, DeSantis suggested they haven’t undergone enough testing to make sure they’re safe for children.
“Our Department of Health has been very clear, the risk outweighs the benefit and we advise against it,” DeSantis said.
Still, he noted that the state does not prevent any doctor or hospital from ordering what they might need.
The Florida Department of Health said it simply chooses not to participate in the “convoluted” federal vaccine distribution process, “especially when the federal government has a reputation for developing inconsistent and unrelated COVID-19 policies. sustainable”.
The agency insisted there would be no delay in getting doses from suppliers if they wanted them.
There was more finger pointing on Friday, after the White House suggested DeSantis bowed to public pressure and reversed course by allowing pediatricians and other providers to order vaccines.
“Yesterday, pediatricians in every state across the country could order vaccines or had the ability to order vaccines for their practices, with the exception of pediatricians in Florida. Starting today, pediatricians in Florida now have that choice,” Jha said.
“Whether it’s a knockdown or not, I’ll let you decide. But something has clearly changed between yesterday and today in the state of Florida.
But Florida Health Department spokesman Jeremy Redfern said nothing has changed and the plan has always been to let vendors start ordering from the state’s online portal as soon as the Food and Drug Administration would have authorized the injections.
Redfern said Florida refuses to be the Biden administration’s warehouse for unused vaccines. Once a doctor’s office or hospital knows what their request is, they are free to place an order with the state, he said.
Lisa Gwynn, president of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP), accused the DeSantis administration of playing political games.
“Look at all the attention this has brought to our governor,” she said.
Gwynn said it was unclear doctors would be allowed to order vaccines so quickly.
“The challenge right now that concerns us the most is because we’re the last to order, we’re going to be the last to receive it,” Gwynn said.
“We could have started vaccinating our children this week. But now we have to wait until July. You know, I mean, kids can still get sick. Children can take it home and give it to family members.