Florida was the only state that declined to preorder the vaccines. It also prohibited county health departments from distributing or administering the shots.
COVID-19 vaccines for infants and young children were authorized last month, yet many Florida parents are struggling to find places to vaccinate their children.
These distraught parents are placing the blame for the scarcity on one man’s shoulders: Gov. Ron DeSantis. That is because the Republican incumbent is the only governor to refuse to preorder the vaccines and to ban county health departments from distributing or administering the shots. In fact, Florida was the only state that declined to preorder the vaccines.
“That’s not something that we think is appropriate, and so that’s not where we’re going to be utilizing our resources,” DeSantis said at a June 16 news conference.
“This is a blatant disregard of the lives of our kids,” Orlando pediatrician Dr. Salma Elfaki, who was part of the vaccine trials for teens, and has given hundreds of children the shot, told Orlando news station WESH 2.
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As a result of DeSantis’ decision, the waitlists at pediatrician offices can stretch for weeks, with some families going as far as traveling out of state to try to find shots for their children. But even as more retail outlets began to offer the jabs last week, parents who want their child’s doctor to provide the shot are facing long waits, reports The Washington Post.
This disproportionately affects poor families who rely on county health clinics that are barred from administering the pediatric vaccine. Small pediatricians’ offices that order their vaccines through county health departments are also affected.
Free to Agree, Not Disagree
DeSantis has called Florida “the freest state in the nation.” Yet in the Republican’s administration, that freedom appears to be conditional.
After she called out the state for its failure to preorder the vaccines or offer them to families through local health offices, Lisa Gwynn, president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, was removed from the state’s Healthy Kids board of directors.
“For them, it’s not about science, it’s about politics,” Gwynn told the Post. “But when the state decided not to preorder — and then to not distribute these vaccines to local health departments — that’s when it became a health equity issue. This was real. This was cutting off the supply to those children.”
Nationwide, more than 549,000 children younger than age 5 got their first coronavirus shot as of July 13, according to federal data. The rate was less than half that in Florida, where 14,421 children got a first shot.