House Subcommittee Misleads About Florida’s Stance on COVID-19 Vaccines for Children: Florida Surgeon General

The Florida surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, on June 29 accused the office of Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, of having issued misleading statements about various matters related to Florida’s attitude and actions toward COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5.

Florida is the only state that did not join a preordering system for COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 that President Joe Biden’s administration opened in early June, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted on June 16.

Following the news, Clyburn issued a letter on June 17 (pdf) urging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to order the vaccines for the age group, or explain via a staff briefing to be held no later than June 30 why the state didn’t preorder the vaccines.

June 17 was also the same day the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5.

The staff briefing was held on June 28, after which the congressional subcommittee issued a press release on June 29 in which Clyburn accused DeSantis of having taken steps to “impede access to lifesaving coronavirus vaccines” for Florida’s children, and “made it harder for parents across the state to get their children vaccinated.”

Clyburn also said in his statement that DeSantis had promoted “anti-vaccine misinformation” that is “making it harder for parents to make fully informed decisions on how best to protect children’s health.”

DeSantis had previously said at a press conference on June 20, “We recommend against [vaccinating babies]. We are not going to have any program where we’re trying to jab 6-month-old babies with mRNA. That’s just the reality.”

“Florida does not recommend, nor distribute, shots for babies,” Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’s press secretary, previously stated on Twitter. “Health care providers that want the vaccines can obtain them and any parent who wants it for their child can get it.”

Clyburn in his letter asserted: “Coronavirus vaccines have proven to be extremely safe and highly effective at reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

“Now that they have been authorized for young children, all parents must be given accurate information on the vaccines’ benefits and must have the freedom to vaccinate their children without needless barriers put in place by politicians like Governor DeSantis.”

clyburn
Subcommittee Chairman Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) speaks during a hearing before House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 23, 2022. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The press release said that Florida’s decision not to pre-order the vaccines “may have delayed vaccinations” for the children under 5, and that more than 30,000 Florida children under 5 “still may not have access to coronavirus vaccines.”

Ladapo, in a two-page letter he sent Clyburn on June 29 in response to the press release, wrote, “It is unfortunate that the information you released is perpetuating confusion among the public. Parents are in the best position to make these decisions for their children. Florida remains committed to making recommendations based on data and science—not ideology.”

Florida Never Limited COVID-19 Vaccine Access: Ladapo

Ladapo said that the press release from the subcommittee provided “blatantly false statements” that “distract from legitimate public health efforts.”

Using our good-faith meeting as a launching pad for political attacks shows why people trust Florida–and not the federal government,” he wrote on Twitter.

He said in the letter to Clyburn, “Information regarding the meeting released to media outlets earlier today mischaracterizes the conversation and we welcome the opportunity to clarify.”

The Florida Department of Health never limited vaccine access in Florida at any point since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that Florida had determined that preordering was unnecessary due to a low demand for COVID-19 vaccines for children, Ladapo said.

Preordering vaccines was done previously when supply was low and demand was high among high-risk populations such as those aged 65 and above, he noted.

Ladapo also said the state’s health department saw inefficiencies in previous pre-orderings of COVID-19 vaccines and so determined “that the process is cumbersome and no longer needed.” Rather than assuming demand, by allowing the vaccine providers to gauge their individual needs and directly order, it allowed for “more efficient resource management and distribution,” he said.

“While the Department chose not to engage in the pre-ordering process, providers were never restricted from ordering,” Ladapo noted, adding that pediatricians began ordering vaccines on June 17 when the EUAs were granted.

“Providers started receiving orders as early as June 21, 2022, which is further evidence for why the pre-ordering process is not needed,” Lapado added. “States that pre-ordered this vaccine will likely be left holding a significant amount of product due to the lack of demand.”

Children Under 5 Receive Covid-19 Vaccines At University Of Washington Hospital
A 3-year-old girl sits on the lap of her mother and gets a sticker from the nurse after receiving her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at UW Medical Center–Roosevelt in Seattle, Washington, on June 21, 2022. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

Reaffirms COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance, Policy in Florida

The Florida surgeon general also reaffirmed his decision to recommend against COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5.

“There are no data that prove this vaccine is more effective than the placebo in reducing severe illness and other clinically meaningful outcomes in this age group,” Lapado wrote. “There is also inadequate data regarding the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

He said studies continue to show a risk of heart inflammation—myocarditis and pericarditis—across multiple age groups but especially in adolescents and young males.

The Florida Department of Health disagrees with the FDA’s and the CDC’s recommendation of the COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5, Ladapo wrote. Manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have “failed to meet” the burden of proof for vaccine efficacy and safety such that the products’ benefits outweigh the risks for the age group under 5, he said.

The surgeon general noted that Florida “has always ensured COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are widely available, but never mandated.”

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in April found that 18 percent of parents of children under 5 would get their children COVID-19 vaccines right away as soon as the vaccines received EUAs, Ladapo pointed out.

He noted that Florida “transitioned from an emergency COVID-19 response to an endemic phase which shifts health care back to private providers and the normal stream of health care,” and that the state expects doctors to manage COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis.

Children Under 5 Receive Covid-19 Vaccines At University Of Washington Hospital
Doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine and vaccination record cards await pediatric patients at UW Medical Center–Roosevelt in Seattle, Washington, on June 21, 2022. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, in a statement on Twitter, said that Ladapo’s letter “did not dispute a single fact” in the press release and called Ladapo’s statements made at the staff briefing on June 28 “dangerous rhetoric.”

“At yesterday’s briefing, Dr. Ladapo made clear neither he nor Gov. DeSantis believe Florida parents should have the choice to vaccinate their children against the coronavirus at county health departments, the primary point of care for 33,000 Florida kids,” the statement reads.

The same subcommittee had noted in its press release that Ladapo said he does not believe that the Florida Department of Health “should be on the back” of health care providers to provide access to “a product we don’t agree with.”

From The Epoch Times