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Florida doctors can now order Covid vaccines for kids under 5

The state began allowing doctors to place orders on Friday, two weeks after officials in other states began ordering doses ahead of regulator approval.
A child receives her second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
Elena Rosales, 3, receives her second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine while participating in a trial at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago on Dec. 7, 2021.Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Florida officials on Friday began allowing doctors to order the newly authorized Covid vaccine for the youngest children, while limiting the state’s involvement in helping get the vaccine to them.

Florida is the only state that hasn’t requested from the federal government any doses of the vaccine for children ages six months to 5 years old, and until Friday no doctors in the state had been able to place an order for it with the state’s health department.

Because Florida just began taking orders from doctors on Friday, unlike other states that have been placing orders over the past two weeks, patients in Florida will receive those doses later than those in other states, said White House Covid coordinator Ashish Jah.

“This is an encouraging first step. But the governor’s failure comes at a price to parents and families of Florida,” Jha said on a call with reporters on Friday. “The president has instructed us to work as quickly as possible to get doses to the families and pediatricians of the great state of Florida, but because of the governor’s failure to order doses the way every other state in the country has, we expect doses to Florida’s pediatrician offices and children’s hospitals to be delayed, arriving days after those in other states.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said earlier this week that the state wouldn’t be distributing the vaccine for the youngest kids and wasn’t recommending parents give it to those children. While DeSantis said doctors would be able to place individual orders, the state didn’t provide doctors the means to do so until Friday.

“Contrary to disinformation circulating, the vaccine ordering process has not changed in Florida,” the state health department said in a statement on its website. “COVID-19 vaccine ordering — including for the 6 month to 5 year age group — has always been available to providers. Following the Emergency Use Authorization issued today, June 17, 2022, enrolled providers are able to order COVID-19 vaccines for the newest authorized age groups through Florida SHOTS.”

Unlike other states, Florida officials still won’t be involved in distributing and allocating doses across the state or encouraging parents to vaccinate their young children.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines for young children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs to sign off before shots can be administered, a move that is expected this weekend. The Pfizer vaccine was authorized for children ages 6 months to 4 years, while the Moderna vaccine was authorized for children ages 6 months to 5 years.

Because Florida officials aren’t recommending young children get vaccinated, Florida won’t be offering the vaccine through state and local public health departments, which Jha said would have a negative impact on children who don’t have a regular pediatrician.

“This will specifically leave the most vulnerable underserved children of Florida behind,” Jha said in a call with reporters.

At least 442 children under 5 have died due to Covid during the pandemic through the end of May, exceeding the number or deaths typically seen from flu or other severe respiratory illnesses, Peter Marks, the FDA’s top vaccine regulator, told an agency committee Wednesday.