On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel of outside experts gave their approval to vaccines from both Moderna and Pfizer for children below the age of five. On Thursday, 49 out of 50 states met the deadline for ordering vaccines for children. Only one state, Florida, missed that deadline. On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis made it clear this wasn’t a mistake. He purposefully ordered the state not to order vaccines and announced that he has no intention of offering vaccines to children in Florida. Because, according to DeSantis, “These are the people who have zero risk of getting anything.”
It’s true that about half of all deaths from COVID-19 in the United States have occurred among people 75 years old and older. As age ranges move down, so do the number of deaths, until reaching the group from birth to five years, where there have been 443 officially recorded COVID-19 deaths. That’s not “only 443,” because any death of a child is absolutely devastating. Most of these children were under the age of one, and for every one of these families, there has never been, and will never be, anything worse in this world than losing a child to COVID.
The number of children affected by COVID-19 is much higher than the number of deaths. About19% of all COVID-19 cases are identified in children, and this is likely a large undercount, as children also represent the group most likely to have no immediate symptoms of infection. Children don’t have any kind of natural immunity to COVID-19. They certainly don’t have “zero risk” of getting it. They get COVID-19 as easily, and maybe even more easily than adults.
And how it affects them is something we do not know.
The Miami Herald is reporting that, following an outcry from both doctors and parents, DeSantis has relented to the point where he will at least deign to let doctors and hospitals order vaccine for young patients.
Previously, not only was DeSantis not ordering any vaccine for state agencies, he was actually blocking anyone else from ordering vaccine.
When it comes to the long-term effect of COVID-19 on children … we have absolutely no idea. Will children exposed to COVID-19 be more susceptible to asthma or other breathing issues in the future? We don’t know. Will the tiny blood clots often generated by the SARS-CoV-2 virus result in diminished learning capacity or serious organ damage? We don’t know. Will COVID-19 lead to lives that are less accomplished, less joyful, or simply shorter? We don’t know.
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We know that viral infections frequently generate sequela; effects that can appear months, years, or decades after the initial disease. We just don’t know what the sequela of COVID-19 might be.
What we do know is that vaccination decreases the chance of COVID-19. We also know that when people who have been vaccinated catch COVID-19, they are much less likely to develop serious symptoms. We know, from experience with other viral diseases like the flu, that vaccines help reduce the seriousness of sequela.
DeSantis has run his state like he’s a contestant in a brutal reality show, one in which he is constantly rewarded for being the angriest, the least rational, the purely meanest person in any room. The idea that he’s done something that makes him the only governor expressing absolute disdain for the children of his state, when 49 other governors of all political stripes recognized that offering vaccines was the bare minimum of decency … was perfectly perfectly predictable. It’s perfectly DeSantis.
He didn’t see this is an obligation to Florida’s families. He sees this as another opportunity to scream “Me! Me! Look at me!” Showing that even when it means putting the state’s youngest residents at risk, he still has absolutely no thought other than locking down the position as the most extreme candidate for any office.
It might be worth having DeSantis talk to the family of this baby who died from COVID-19 in Orange County, Florida. Or the families of the thousands of children in Florida who were hospitalized.
Not that it would have any effect. After all, when DeSantis overrode the advice of all medical authorities to force Florida students back to in-person school, COVID-19 deaths among children in Florida more than doubled. As those students were dying, DeSantis did have one big concern. That was right in the middle of the period in which he was suing school districts and holding up teacher pay to force them to stop requiring masks.
49 states will begin giving out vaccines for kids under 5 as soon as next week. Florida will not. The cost of that decision will not be known for decades. Maybe not for generations. But one thing is sure: DeSantis thinks this is great. For Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis is America’s most bitter, vile, hateful, vicious, tyrannical, and spiteful man. And that’s his campaign platform.