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Florida's political pandemic continues with availability of COVID shots for young kids at issue

Python Hunt Florida
Lynne Sladky
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a media event where he announced that registration for the 2022 Florida Python Challenge has opened for the annual 10-day event to be held Aug 5-14, Thursday, June 16, 2022, in Miami. The Python Challenge is intended to engage the public in participating in Everglades conservation through invasive species removal of the Burmese python.

According to a report and the federal goverment, the state reversed course and allowed pediatricians to order the vaccine, but the DeSantis administration disputed there was a change in policy

With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for kids from 6 months to 5 years old expected this week, Florida is in the national spotlight. It was the only state not to preorder the vaccine from the federal government.

On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis defended the decision, saying, "Doctors can get it. Hospitals can get it. But there's not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to, you know, get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns. That's not something that we think is appropriate."

Private pediatricians and other health providers said they could not get the vaccine outside of the state system. The Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics urged DeSantis to reconsider, saying the decision "puts thousands of infants, toddlers, and young children in Florida at risk."

On Friday, McClatchy reported the state had reversed course and allowed pediatricians to order the vaccine. The state Department of Health disputed there was a change in policy in a statement: "Contrary to disinformation circulating, the vaccine ordering process has not changed in Florida."

Florida doctors and hospitals could start ordering the vaccines directly on Friday, the same day the Food and Drug Administration authorized their use.

But the delay in ordering has put Florida at the end of the line. Doses in other parts of the country could begin arriving Tuesday.

On Florida Roundup this week, Miami cardiologist Dr. Bernard Ashby, Florida lead for the advocacy group Committee to Protect Health Care, said the state's move is part of DeSantis' pattern of politicizing the COVID pandemic.

"This is yet another salvo in his ongoing campaign against any mitigation measures related to the virus," he said. "For [DeSantis] to simply turn down a program that's offered by the federal government is just indicating that he's more concerned about making a political statement than actually discussing the science."

Dr. Chad Neilsen, director of Accreditation & Infection Prevention at UF Health Jacksonville, recommended getting information from trusted individuals or agencies — not social media.

"For parents, we typically here at our hospital system recommend that they follow up and they look at guidance and information from the American Academy of Pediatrics," he said. "And AAP has typically followed the recommendations from the CDC and others about vaccinating kids."

Florida is currently experiencing a surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations.

"Now that the majority of the state and including most of the major cities are in that high-risk category, that includes the recommendation to mask in certain scenarios, to mask if you're immunosuppressed or especially if you're not vaccinated, because the likelihood of transmission is extremely high in most of Florida," Neilsen said.

And for everyone wondering about the reliability of home tests, Neilsen had this advice:

"Right now, I think a really effective strategy for most people, if they think they have COVID-19, is really to first and foremost, don't go out in public, right? Self-isolate, treat yourself as if you have it," he said.

PCR tests are the "gold standard" and may be needed if you have to prove you have COVID to miss work, or for insurance purposes, he said.

But most importantly, he said, "if you're vaccinated and boosted and you still are getting sick anyways, just isolate, stay at home and remove yourself from the population. So we're not transmitting COVID-19 anymore."

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