The Florida Department of Health will recommend against Covid-19 vaccinations for healthy children, the state’s top public health official said Monday, putting the state at odds with the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC recommended children get vaccinated in November when the shot became available to most kids. Since then, about 22 million children have become fully vaccinated, including 1.1 million Florida kids.
But Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo said the state is going to issue separate guidance urging parents not to vaccinate their kids. Ladapo did not say when that guidance would become official and provided few additional details.
Florida would become the first state to break from the CDC on vaccines for children.
The announcement from Ladapo came at the end of a 90-minute discussion between some of the medical community’s most vocal skeptics of pandemic mitigation measures. The event, hosted by Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, was harshly critical of the CDC and governments that took steps to slow the spread of the virus through mask mandates and shutdown measures.
Several of the doctors and scientists on DeSantis’ panel shared unproven concerns about the safety of the vaccine for kids.
Children vaccinated against Covid-19 are less likely to be hospitalized for Covid-19 infections than children who are unvaccinated, recent data has shown.
Vaccinated grade schoolers are nearly half as likely to have a Covid-19 case that resulted in care at an urgent care clinic or emergency room compared to children who were unvaccinated, according to a large study funded by the CDC.
Almost 4.5 million children have had Covid just since the beginning of January.
Children infected with Covid-19 can develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome weeks later. This rare disease can lead to dangerous complications, causing parts of the body to become inflamed. MIS-C can affect major organs including the kidneys, brain, lungs and heart.
The vaccine is not yet available for children under the age of 5. About 25% of Florida’s eligible child population is vaccinated, compared to 30% nationally.
Ladapo has become a lightning rod for criticism since his appointment to lead the Florida Health Department last year. Ladapo gained attention during the pandemic after penning a series of op-eds that challenged the consensus scientific opinion on vaccines, masks and mitigation strategies. He has also pushed unproven Covid-19 therapies, such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.
The Florida Senate confirmed Ladapo to become the state’s surgeon general last month. During his confirmation hearings, he declined to say if he was vaccinated and would not answer questions from lawmakers about the effectiveness of vaccines.
Ladapo recently issued new guidance that discouraged private businesses from requiring their employees to wear masks.