TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As the nation readies for COVID-19 vaccination of those under age 5, in Florida, the debate over whether kids should get them continues to rage.
It comes as the governor and Florida Department of Health continue to discourage doses for healthy children, saying the evidence isn’t there.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said she's standing up in an absence of leadership from the governor on this issue. She held a news conference Monday morning to clear up what she described as chaos and confusion.
With shots for tots soon a reality in the U.S., Fried said Monday she wanted to make clear that Florida will be getting the doses, regardless of Gov. Ron DeSantis' continued opposition to them.
"I had parents contacting and reaching out to me all of last week saying, 'Am I going to have to go to Georgia?' That is the type of confusion that he created last week," Fried said.
Fried's criticism comes as the Department of Health and the governor keep discouraging the use of the vaccines for healthy children under 5. Florida also declined to pre-order shots, the only state to do so, meaning delivery to health providers here will likely be slow.
Federal officials on Friday estimated Florida would receive its doses "days" after other states.
Fried is hopeful it would be as soon as next week.
"We have seen that the governor is intentionally creating this chaos," Fried said.
The Democrat is challenging DeSantis in the upcoming election, and while she denounced him in Tallahassee, the Republican leader defended his position on shots at a news conference in Callahan, saying he can't ban them, but won't back them.
"We're following the data," DeSantis said. "You look at these European countries, a lot of them aren't recommending Moderna for under age 30, or they recommend against it."
DeSantis continued to say vaccines for healthy kids lack enough evidence for a state recommendation. He called the research used by federal regulators the "weakest possible data" and suggested they were caving to big pharmaceutical companies.
"These regulatory agencies in the federal government have basically become subsidiaries of the pharmaceutical companies," DeSantis said. "They are not independent regulators. They're basically there to rubber-stamp what Pfizer wants to do."
Both the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the shots last week. It follows a review of shot trials with hundreds of children. Officials believe the benefits outweigh the risks.
While neither the Department of Health nor its county offices will provide access to the vaccine, parents can get them through pharmacies partnered with the federal government or by speaking to their physician.
There are several resources for vaccine locations, but one of the best is from the federal government, available by clicking here.