White House: Florida advice against vaccinating healthy kids ‘disturbing’

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday called it “deeply disturbing” for the Florida Department of Health to advise against vaccinating “healthy children” against COVID-19.

“Absolutely not,” Psaki said when asked if the Florida recommendation was a good policy. “Let me just note that we know the science. We know the data and what works and what the most effective steps are in protecting people of a range of ages from hospitalization and even death. The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] and CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] have already weighed in on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines for those 5 and older.”

“We also know through the data that unvaccinated teenagers are three times as likely to be hospitalized if they get COVID than vaccinated teenagers,” Psaki continued. “So it’s deeply disturbing that there are politicians peddling conspiracy theories out there and casting doubt on vaccinations when it is our best tool against the virus and the best tool to prevent even teenagers from being hospitalized.”

The state’s surgeon general, Joseph Ladapo, said the state “is going to be the first state to officially recommend against the COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children.” The advice came at the end of a roundtable discussion on virus response. 

Ladapo did not provide details such as who would qualify as a healthy child or go into the reasoning behind the decision.  

The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get the coronavirus vaccine. Existing vaccines are not yet approved for those younger than 5.

While COVID-19 has generally produced more severe cases in older age groups, the CDC noted that as of mid-October 2021, there were “more than 8,300 COVID-19 related hospitalizations and nearly 100 deaths from COVID-19” among children 5 to 11, and the coronavirus is one of the top 10 causes of death in that age group.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that children get vaccinated.  

The advisory from Florida on Monday marks the latest break between the state, led by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), and the White House on pandemic policy and a variety of other matters.

Psaki has previously criticized DeSantis for his rejection of ventilators from the federal government, his embrace of antibody therapies that have not proved to be effective against the omicron variant and his opposition to masking children while in school.

Tags Jen Psaki Ron DeSantis

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