Briefing with Florida Surgeon General Details Governor DeSantis’ Attempts to Hinder Coronavirus Vaccinations for Young Children

Jun 29, 2022
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (June 29, 2022) – Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, issued a statement after a staff briefing held yesterday with Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo and other representatives of the Florida Department of Health. Chairman Clyburn requested the staff briefing in a June 17 letter to Governor DeSantis, after it was revealed that Florida was the only state in the country that had failed to pre-order coronavirus vaccines for children under five, which were authorized earlier this month. 

“The steps Governor DeSantis has taken to impede access to lifesaving coronavirus vaccines for Florida’s young children have made it harder for parents across the state to get their children vaccinated, and his promotion of anti-vaccine misinformation is making it harder for parents to make fully informed decisions on how best to protect children’s health. Coronavirus vaccines have proven to be extremely safe and highly effective at reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Now that they have been authorized for young children, all parents must be given accurate information on the vaccines’ benefits and must have the freedom to vaccinate their children without needless barriers put in place by politicians like Governor DeSantis. I urge the governor to abandon this dangerous, anti-scientific approach, and I strongly encourage all parents of young children to provide them with the lifesaving protection of coronavirus vaccines as soon as possible.”

Dr. Ladapo provided the following information during the briefing:

Florida’s Intentional Failure to Pre-Order Coronavirus Vaccines for Young Children—A Decision Made with Governor DeSantis’s Involvement—May Have Delayed Vaccinations.

  • Dr. Ladapo confirmed that the Florida Department of Health intentionally failed to pre-order vaccines for young children by the June 14, 2022 deadline provided by the federal government, explaining the state found the pre-ordering system to be “inefficient” and had concluded there was “very little demand.” 

  • When asked whether Governor DeSantis was apprised of the state’s decision not to pre-order vaccines, Dr. Ladapo replied that they had made the decision “together.”

  • Dr. Ladapo confirmed that Florida did not allow pediatricians and other health care providers to place orders for vaccines for young children through Florida SHOTS, the state’s vaccine ordering system, until after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization on June 17, 2022—which followed public outcry about the state’s failure to order vaccines

  • Although he acknowledged the Biden Administration was able to “very promptly” deliver vaccines to health care providers across the state, Dr. Ladapo said that Florida’s decision to block providers from putting in orders until June 17 may have caused a short “delay” that impacted the prompt administration of vaccines last week.

Governor DeSantis and the State of Florida Continue to Promote Anti-Vaccine Misinformation.

  • Dr. Ladapo doubled down on Governor DeSantis’s prior public statements that Florida is “affirmatively against” vaccines for young children, stating: “In Florida, we don’t recommend” coronavirus vaccines for children under 18. Contrary to consensus scientific views confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FDA, and top scientists and public health experts throughout the country, Dr. Ladapo claimed there is “little data” on whether children and adolescentswho he asserted are at “low risk” from the coronavirusbenefit from the COVID-19 vaccines. 

  • When asked whether it was his assessment that the risks to children from the coronavirus are lower than risks to children from coronavirus vaccines, Dr. Ladapo replied that it was “a perverse question.” He said that he believes that the proper question is to compare risk of vaccination to the risk of not vaccinating, implying that risks of infection should not be considered. 

More than 30,000 Florida Children Under Five Still May Not Have Access to Coronavirus Vaccines.

  • Dr. Ladapo confirmed that, given the state’s view that children should not be vaccinated against the coronavirus, county health departments in Florida “cannot” order or administer coronavirus vaccines to young children, a decision that he said he discussed with Governor DeSantis. Dr. Ladapo also confirmed that approximately 3% of the more than 1.1 million children under five who live in Florida receive their primary care at county health departments, leaving approximately 33,000 young children in Florida without access to coronavirus vaccines at their normal point of care. 

  • When asked whether the Florida Department of Health had analyzed whether parents whose children receive primary care at county health departments may have difficulty getting their children vaccinated against the coronavirus at other locations, Dr. Ladapo asserted: “We don’t believe it should be offered at all and we’ve communicated that to Floridians.” 

  • Dr. Ladapo was not able to provide an immediate answer as to whether coronavirus vaccines for young children are currently offered in all counties across the state or what percentage of the population can easily access the vaccines. He noted that he does not believe that the Florida Department of Health “should be on the back” of health care providers to provide access to “a product we don’t agree with.”

117th Congress