COVID vaccine: Shots for kids begin Tuesday; Florida only state not to preorder

COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months old and older will be available beginning Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

The vaccine was approved for use in children last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and over the weekend by the CDC and its director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

The clearance to use the Moderna and Pfizer drugs made some 18 million children eligible to get the vaccine against the novel coronavirus that has taken the lives of more than 1 million adults in the United States.

Around 442 U.S. children ages 6 months to 4 years old have succumbed to the virus since it was discovered in the U.S. in 2020. Around 815 children in the 5 years old to 18 years old age group have died from the virus.

In anticipation of approval for their use, state health departments were allowed to preorder the vaccines for children. Forty-nine states met the deadline for the pre-order with one state, Florida, not preordering pediatric vaccines.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday told reporters that his state department of health believes “the risks outweigh the benefits, and we recommend against it. ... 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.”

“The state of Florida intentionally missed multiple deadlines to order vaccines to protect its youngest kids,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters on Friday.

Bryan Griffin, a deputy press secretary for DeSantis, told The New York Times that the state health department does not believe healthy children need get a COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have always maintained the position that the state of Florida has chosen not to be involved in the preordering or distribution of the vaccine for children under 5,” Griffin said. “The state of Florida does not recommend the vaccine be administered to healthy children,” he added, referring to guidance that the state issued in March against the advice of the CDC.

While Florida doctors and the state’s drug stores and pharmacies can order the pediatric version of the vaccine, they have been notified that the state will not be administering the program.

“Contrary to disinformation circulating, the vaccine ordering process has not changed in Florida,” the state’s health department said in a statement Friday. “COVID-19 vaccine ordering — including for the 6 month to 5 year age group — has always been available to providers. Following the Emergency Use Authorization issued today, June 17, 2022, enrolled providers are able to order COVID-19 vaccines for the newest authorized age groups through Florida SHOTS.

For the rest of the country, 10 million vaccine doses have already been preordered from the federal government. According to the White House, delivery and distribution will begin as soon as Tuesday (after the Juneteenth federal holiday on Monday).

Results of trials of the vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech were reviewed for safety and effectiveness last week by advisory panels for the FDA and the CDC, before Walensky approved them for use in children ages 6 months to 5 years old.

Children ages 6 months to 6 years would get two shots of Moderna’s vaccine four to eight weeks apart, with a third coming later.

Children ages 6 months to 5 years would get Pfizer-BioNTech’s second of three shots eight weeks after the first. The third shot would come eight weeks after the second.