Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo announced the state’s alarming plans this week
There’s just something about Florida — a strange number of news stories from the Sunshine State are baffling, but this latest announcement from the state’s top public health official is not only strange, it could end up hurting kids. On Monday, the Florida Department of Health announced a new stance: it plans to recommend against healthy children getting Covid-19 vaccinations.
Not only is Florida’s soon-to-be official position that healthy kids shouldn’t get Covid-19 vaccinations the exact opposite of what the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, but it’s also so appalling to many healthcare professionals that they’re fervently warning parents against it.
Since November 2021, the CDC has advised that children be vaccinated and since then, 1.1 million kids in Florida have followed this guidance, according to CNN. But now it seems Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo wants to stop this. He isn’t just not encouraging parents to vaccinate their eligible children in order to protect themselves and their families from a disease that has infected 11,417,592 and killed 1,567 Americans under 18 as of March 7, according to the CDC. He is taking it one step further by planning to actively urge parents against these life-saving shots.
And frankly, that’s disturbing. It’s one thing to potentially express support for parents making fact-based decisions after discussing it with their child’s healthcare provider, but to publicly take such a strong anti-vax stance and plan to make it the state’s official position? There’s reason to be concerned for the children of Florida, at least according to some horrified medical experts who spoke to CNN.
To Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Florida surgeon general’s decision is “wholly irresponsible and completely unsupported.”
“Although it is true that children are less likely to be infected and it is true that children are less likely to be severely infected, they can still be infected, and they can still be severely infected,” he told CNN.
“And if you have a vaccine which is safe, which this is, and is effective, which this is, then you give it,” he continued. “What the Florida surgeon general didn’t do was in any sense explain himself. What possible reason could he have for not giving this vaccine to children and putting them in a position where they have to suffer this disease?”
Ladapo was appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in September 2021. He’s been associated with a far-right group of physicians and in the past has regularly questioned the safety of vaccines and promoted unproved COVID-19 treatments.
Although Ladapo did not elaborate on specifics like when this stance will become official, it will make Florida the first state to go against the CDC’s stance on vaccines for children when it does. And this is despite the fact that since just January, 4.5 million kids have had Covid. Or that research has found unvaccinated kids are more likely to be hospitalized for Covid than their vaccinated counterparts if infected and for those in elementary school, vaccinated students are nearly half as likely to even need an urgent care or emergency room visit than their unvaccinated classmates.
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is also “disappointed and actually concerned.”
“I think [vaccination] continues to be the best recommendation,” he told CNN. “I would continue to make it to all parents of children 5 and older. The benefits clearly outweigh the risks, and they provide us a firmer foundation for the control of Covid going forward.”
Even the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics called out this announcement.
“The Covid-19 vaccine is our best hope for ending the pandemic,” chapter President Dr. Lisa Gwynn said in a statement, according to CNN. “The Surgeon General’s comments today misrepresent the benefits of the vaccine, which has been proven to prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and long-term symptoms from Covid-19 in children and adolescents, including those who are otherwise healthy.”
“The evidence is clear that when people are vaccinated, they are significantly less likely to get very sick and need hospital care. There is widespread consensus among medical and public health experts about the life-saving benefits of this vaccine.”
And it’s not just health experts who are speaking out about the dangers of this planned state-issued guidance. Many across social media are just as alarmed over Ladapo’s policy.
“Way to go Ron! At least the CDC will have a large population to determine if the study is true that children who have had Covid have higher chance of developing juvenile diabetes,” one Facebook user commented. “Also a new study out which is showing brain damage in those who have had COVID-19 which may lead to early onset Alzheimer's and Dementia. I guess Florida will be ground zero for these studies. Well Ron, I guess if your citizens don't die at least you can disable them.”
“Good thing I listened to my pediatrician and not these political hacks,” one parent wrote.
“Very disturbing. I hope people consult with their doctors for medical advice not the politicians who serve their own interests,” another user commented.
“In other news, the Florida surgeon general also says that children should run with scissors, play in traffic, and not look both ways before crossing the street,” another person chimed in.
Let’s just hope that if and when this guidance goes into effect, that parents remember it’s just that — a recommendation, not mandate — and they still listen to their kids’ doctors and the CDC when making healthcare decisions for their children.