While state agencies won't be distributing COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 because officials say "the risks outweigh the benefits," pediatricians and healthcare providers can order the shots for their patients. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo
June 17 (UPI) -- While Florida won't have a government-run program dispensing COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5, doctors and hospitals can order the shots and administer them for patients who want them.
A clarification from Gov. Ron DeSantis came this afternoon after the FDA on Friday officially authorized Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines for kids under 5.
Doctors and healthcare providers across the state will now be able to start ordering the vaccines -- like providers across the country -- but because Florida officials didn't pre-order the vaccines, there may be delays in the shipments.
The first waves of vaccine shipments are expected to start arriving Monday, though national chain pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens in Florida should get their vaccines on time, according to Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator.
The White House, as well as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., noted that Florida was the only state to not pre-order vaccines for children under 5 and sought to find out why the shots hadn't been ordered.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration said earlier this week they would not be participating in the federal program to distribute the vaccines, which led many to believe they would not be available in the state.
The White House on Friday announced that DeSantis had reversed his decision about the shots, prompting a statement from his office.
"We have never held the position that the state would prohibit healthcare providers from ordering the vaccine," DeSantis deputy press secretary Bryan Griffin said in the statement.
"We have always maintained the position that the State of Florida does not recommend the vaccine be administered to healthy children," Griffin said.
A White House statement earlier in the day suggested DeSantis had "reversed course" about promoting the vaccines, which his administration has long recommended against for any child under 18.
"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 healthcare provider," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
Clyburn also had sent DeSantis a letter on Friday demanding he reverse or explain his decision refusing to order COVID-19 vaccines for kids under 5.
"Your decision to reject these vaccines could deny Florida parents the ability to make their own decisions on what is best for the health of their children -- and could deny some Florida children the ability to live long and healthy lives," Clyburn wrote.
In direct contradiction to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo recommended against the COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5 in March.
DeSantis on Thursday told reporters that his state department of health believes "the risks outweigh the benefits and we recommend against it... there's not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to, you know, get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns."
Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration urges "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."
"We will pull every lever to get pediatricians across Florida vaccines as quickly as possible," Jean-Pierre said.