Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is fully engaged when it comes to combating imaginary threats to children such as “critical race theory” and “LGBTQ indoctrination.” But the so-called pro-life governor is AWOL when it comes to protecting children against a life-threatening disease like COVID-19.
Last month, DeSantis distanced his state from the Biden administration’s efforts to vaccinate infants and young children against COVID-19. He declared that no state resources will be dedicated to getting children under age 5 the shots.
“There is not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns,” DeSantis told a news conference last month. “That’s not something that we think is appropriate, and so that’s not where we are going to be utilizing our resources.”
DeSantis claimed that regulators had not conducted sufficient testing and trials of the “baby jabs.”
In March, the Florida Department of Health also recommended against COVID-19 vaccinations for healthy children ages 5 to 11, saying “the risk outweighs the benefits.” That made Florida the only state to do so.
And DeSantis is certainly consistent when it comes to anti-vaccine measures. The White House said last month that Florida was the only state that did not preorder the newly available shots for children under 5.
”By being the only state not-pre-ordering, pediatricians, for example, in Florida will not have immediate ready access to vaccines,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “Some pharmacies and community health centers in the state get access through federal distribution channels, but those options are limited for parents.”
That put DeSantis in a league of his own. Even Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem apparently had their states preorder the vaccines.
DeSantis said Florida was not banning the vaccines for children under 5. He said at the news conference last month that doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals could still get the vaccines, so “people can access it if they want to.”
DeSantis claimed that parents are “free to choose” if they want their young children to get the vaccines. But of course DeSantis was wrong once again, because that’s not how things turned out. The Washington Post wrote that many parents “are struggling to find places to vaccinate their children, and they blame DeSantis.” He also prohibited county health departments from distributing or administering the shots. The Post wrote:
Waitlists at pediatrician offices stretch for weeks. Doctor’s offices that have managed to get doses are fielding calls from parents hundreds of miles away. Families debate road trips to neighboring states in the hope of finding shots for their kids.
“We heard that [the vaccine] was coming, and we were super excited. We saw a chance for some normalcy,” said Tampa mom Ashley Comegys, whose 1-year-old and 4-year-old sons are on a waitlist for the vaccines at their pediatrician’s office, which is likely to take about three weeks. ...
“They told us that because the state didn’t preorder, that put Florida at the end of the line, so we don’t know when it will come in,” Comegys said. “The hypocrisy is infuriating. With DeSantis, it’s all ‘your choice to wear a mask, your choice to get a vaccine.’ But now he’s making that choice for me and my children by making the vaccine so hard to get.”
Of course, this being Republican-controlled Florida, the difficulty in getting the vaccine is even greater for poor families, especially those in rural areas who rely on county health clinics because their communities are already underserved.
Meanwhile, DeSantis is doing what he does best by suppressing criticism of his decisions. It doesn’t help that his hand-picked surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, promoted unproven COVID-19 treatments such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, opposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and questioned their safety. Ladapo has recommended against against vaccinating healthy children younger than 18, which goes against the recommendations of pediatricians and infectious disease experts. The Post reported:
Lisa Gwynn, president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, was removed from the state’s Healthy Kids board of directors after she criticized the failure to preorder the vaccines or offer them to families through local health offices.
“For them, it’s not about science, it’s about politics,” Gwynn said. “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.”
A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health, Jeremy T. Redfern, told the Post that state and county health personnel can’t administer the pediatric vaccine under the state policy, but they can tell parents where they might find them. Redfern also claimed that “there is not a high demand” for the pediatric vaccine anyway.
But West Palm Beach pediatrician Tommy Schechtman, a former president of the state chapter of the pediatric society, told the newspaper that his practice obtained doses of the pediatric vaccine through its supplier, and has received phone requests from parents across the state. He said “these are parents who have been waiting more than two years for this.”
The Post reported federal data shows that nationwide, more than 549,000 children under the age of 5, or 2.8% of the population, got their first coronavirus shot as of July 13. In Florida, only 14,421 children, or 1.3% in that age group, received it. But 16 states have vaccinated a smaller percentage of children under 5 than Florida with Mississippi and Alabama at the bottom, giving first shots to 0.3% and 0.5% of young children, respectively.
And once again the hypocrisy of forced birthers like DeathSantis is exposed. He apparently does not care about protecting the lives of Florida’s youngest residents from a real threat to their lives. Instead, he is focused on establishing his MAGA bona fides as he considers a possible presidential run in 2024, even a primary challenge against a weakened former guy.
Last November, he signed a law that widely forbid vaccine or mask mandates. He has sharply criticized President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci
, going so far as selling merchandise inscribed with “Don’t Fauci My Florida.”
And the Post reported that more recently, DeSantis has begun using a talking point popularized by anti-vaxx groups. He claimed the federal Food and Drug Administration was “basically a subsidiary of Big Pharma,” accusing them of working in tandem to sell more of the “baby jabs.”
The Post said that organizations that serve poor children are finding that the conflicting messages put out by state and national leaders have left parents confused, reducing demand for the pediatric vaccine.
“With all of this misinformation, and the state’s decision not to distribute it through local health departments, there are some families that think it’s actually against the law to get the vaccine for their children,” said Gwynn, the state president of the pediatric society who also runs a mobile health clinic in Miami-Dade County. “I had to have a meeting with my nurses to allay their fears that they would be doing something illegal if they gave the vaccines to young children.”