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Surgeon general: Florida to advise against COVID vaccine for healthy children

The move contradicts the CDC, which recommends a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 and older to protect themselves and other people.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo says the state will be the first in the country to recommend against healthy children getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ladapo made the announcement at the end of a roundtable hosted by Gov. Ron DeSantis and attended by other health professionals. 

Throughout the roundtable discussion that the governor said would highlight the "failures" of the COVID-19 response, the doctors in attendance continually cited the unknown harm and consequences of the Food and Drug Administration's Emergency Use Authorization for child-size COVID-19 vaccine doses.

The benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine for children outweigh the known and potential risks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says no serious safety concerns were identified when thousands of children participated in clinical trials for the vaccine.

"The Florida Department of Health is going to be the first state to officially recommend against the COVID-19 vaccine for healthy children," Ladapo said during the roundtable. 

Details on the state health department's updated guidance were not given. 

Dr. Jill Roberts, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida, panned the state's announcement during a time at which the pandemic is ongoing.

"To actually take this viewpoint and say, 'we’ve got this incredibly powerful tool, let’s not give it to kids,' is inhumane," Roberts said.

Currently, the CDC recommends the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 and older. Teens ages 12 to 17 are recommended to get the Pfizer booster shot at least five months after they are fully-vaccinated.

According to the CDC, nearly 2 million COVID-19 cases have been reported in children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old. There are about 28 million children in that age group, the CDC says.

"COVID-19 can make children very sick and cause children to be hospitalized," the CDC said on its site. "In some situations, the complications from infection can lead to death." 

The CDC also says COVID-19 ranks "as one of the top 10 causes of death" for children ages 5 through 11 years. 

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Academy of Pediatrics recommends everyone ages 5 and older receive a COVID-19 vaccine," wrote Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in a statement. "Johns Hopkins Medicine also encourages all families that are eligible to get the appropriate COVID-19 vaccine."

DeSantis spoke more about the matter when he responded to a reporter's question Monday at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City. According to DeSantis, there should be nuance in conversations about COVID-19, and individuals should be encouraged to make their own decisions about vaccinations.

"We, of course, oppose mandates in terms of this and have barred mandates in Florida," the governor explained, saying that it's parents' choice whether to vaccinate their kids in the state.

There have been 804,501 cases of COVID-19 in the 16 and younger age group since the start of the pandemic, according to the Florida Department of Health's latest report. There have been 42 deaths within the same age group.

Johns Hopkins Medicine put together resources for parents about what they need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes typical side effects children can experience from the vaccine and what experts recommend. 

Johns Hopkins also discusses the risk factor of myocarditis in teens after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. You can get more information here.

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