(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — Despite widespread support for pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations from the nation’s top health officials, Florida will become the first state in the country to advise against vaccinating healthy children for COVID-19, the state’s Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, announced on Monday.
“The Florida Department of Health is going to be the first state to officially recommend against the COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children,” Ladapo said at the end of a 90-minute roundtable discussion in West Palm Beach, Florida, hosted by Gov. Ron DeSantis, aimed to close the curtain on the “COVID theater once and for all.”
Just prior to the announcement, Ladapo, alongside a group of physicians, made the case that the COVID-19 vaccines may not be necessary in children.
Ladapo pointed to a study released last week out of New York, suggesting that new data showed that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine protection waned relatively quickly in children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old, as compared to older children.
“Already the rates were low. So, 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 infinite potential of benefit,” Ladapo said Monday.
Although the study, which has not been peer-reviewed, suggested immunity waned faster in young children relative to older children, researchers said the vaccine still dramatically reduced the risk of hospitalization.
Scientists also said it might be important to study “alternative” vaccine dosing for young children to bolster efficacy.
Following the announcement, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Florida’s decision was “absolutely not” a good policy.
“Let me just note that we know the science. We know the data and what works and what is the most, what the most effective steps are protecting people of a range of ages from hospitalization and even death,” Psaki said during a press briefing on Monday.
“It’s deeply disturbing that there are politicians peddling conspiracy theories out there and casting doubt on vaccinations, when it is our best tool against the virus and the best tool to prevent even teenagers from being hospitalized,” she added.
Many health experts across the country have also vehemently pushed back on claims that vaccines may not be necessary for children, urging the importance of vaccines for all eligible children to protect against severe illness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have also been vocal in their support of pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations, stressing to parents that real-world data has demonstrated that vaccines are safe and effective at protecting children against severe disease, as well as against potential long-term consequences from the virus.
“Vaccines are safe and effective in protecting individuals and populations against infectious diseases,” physicians from the AAP wrote in a policy statement last month.
DeSantis also questioned whether children should be getting the shots, touting the state’s recent efforts to ban vaccine mandates in schools.
“We have this issue in terms of COVID-19 vaccinations with respect to children. And in Florida, we prohibited mandating COVID vaccines for children, so they can go to school and it’s a parent’s decision,” DeSantis said. “A lot of parents have come up to me, and they’re just like, ‘yeah, thanks for not mandating, we want to make the decision,’ but they have mixed feelings about whether they should do that even if it is their choice.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, more than 12.6 million American children have tested positive for COVID-19, according to data collected by the AAP and Children’s Hospital Association. In addition, federal data shows that nationwide, more than 115,000 COVID-19 positive children have been admitted hospitals, while more than 1,500 children have lost their lives to the virus.
Alongside the Governor, Ladapo has been vocal about his stance to end COVID-19 mitigation measures in an effort to promote personal freedom.
Last month, the duo announced that the state would advise against the use of face coverings to protect against COVID-19.
ABC News’ Sony Salzman, Armando Garcia, and Isabella Murray contributed to this report.
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