Florida will recommend that healthy children don't need the COVID vaccine
Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo made the announcement at a roundtable organized by Gov. Ron DeSantis that featured a group of doctors who criticized coronavirus mandates.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo says the state Department of Health will formally recommend against COVID-19 vaccinations for healthy children.
Ladapo made the announcement Monday after a panel of physicians and epidemiologists assembled in West Palm Beach by Gov. Ron DeSantis discussed what they considered the lack of evidence on vaccine benefits for children.
Florida “is going to be the first state to officially recommend against the COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children,” Ladapo said.
He did not say when the guidelines would take effect or specify ages involved.
The panel, convened to discuss "failures" criticized coronavirus lockdowns and vaccine mandates and lamented what the physicians portrayed as political decisions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We're kind of scraping at the bottom of the barrel, particularly with healthy kids, in terms of actually being able to quantify — with any accuracy and any confidence — the even potential of benefit," Ladapo said.
“We were able to bring doctors from around the world to discuss COVID-19 and the lack of data to support mandates. Scientific debate takes place in a public forum — it is not hidden in federal bureaucracy. We need to get back to living — not hiding in fear.”
The CDC has said vaccines provide strong protection for children 5 and older, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared the Pfizer vaccine for use in children as young as 5.
The roundtable was titled "The Curtain Close on COVID Theater." At an event last week in Tampa, the Republican governor admonished masked high school students to stop "this COVID theater." It featured doctors who criticized COVID lockdowns and mandates.
“The data that’s coming in on this is showing for healthy kids very little benefit in terms of what the vaccine is doing and that’s weighed against the fact that they’re at very, very low risk," DeSantis said Monday. “Individuals can make their own decision, but I think the data is in line with what the surgeon general recommended."
Panel members said researchers had not sufficiently weighed the benefits of vaccine against the potential harm.
“There is no justification for mandating vaccines for children, full stop,” said panel member Dr. Robert Malone, M.D. “We’re of the strong opinion that if there is risk, there must be choice. As far as we’re concerned, there is no medical emergency now, and there is therefore no justification for the declaration of medical emergency and the suspension of rights that has occurred with that reupping of the medical emergency by the executive branch."
Malone, who did early work on mRNA vaccines, was banned from Twitter for violating the site's COVID misinformation policies, and YouTube removed videos of an interview Malone did with Spotify podcast host Joe Rogan.
Ladapo last month discouraged mask-wearing to protect against COVID-19 and encouraged physicians to use their own judgment on treatment of the disease, including the use of off-label medications.
A day later, the CDC announced that most Americans were free to shed their masks in public spaces as the coronavirus has waned. But the advice does not apply to areas of high transmission, including Hillsborough County.
Criticism from Florida Democrats and many in the medical community followed Ladapo's announcement.
"This is political theater that puts our kids in danger," the Florida House Democrats' Twitter page posted. "It sends a terrible message to parents by pitting the Fl DoH against the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. But it's pretty much what we expected from this Surgeon General."
"Ladapo remains an outlier in the scientific community as our nation works toward a safer and healthier future for everyone, including our children," Rep.Fentrice Driskell of Tampa said . "It is unfortunate that our state’s Department of Health is being led by someone who fails to put the health of Floridians before the governor’s political games."
Tina Carroll- Scott, medical director at South Miami Children’s Clinic, told NBC News that the directive was “irresponsible and incorrect.”
The global death toll from the pandemic surpassed 6 million people on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. U.S. deaths are approaching 1 million.
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Information was Health News Florida and the Associated Press was used in this report.