Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo is under fire for comments he made in a roundtable discussion where he alleged that COVID-19 vaccines were unsafe for healthy children.
Ladapo claimed that he was working together with other health officials in the state to eradicate some COVID-19 recommendations that were previously issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the fall.
“The Florida Department of Health is going to be the first state to officially recommend against the COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children,” Ladapo said towards the end of the conversation led by Florida governor Ron DeSantis on Mar. 7.
“We’re kind of scraping at the bottom of the barrel, particularly with healthy kids, in terms of actually being able to quantify with any accuracy and any confidence the even potential of benefit,” he added.
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The questionable comment came following new guidelines that were released by the Florida Health Department this week that claimed: “healthy children aged five to 17 may not benefit from receiving” the COVID-19 vaccine. The agency argued that there was limited data available informing the benefit of the COVID-19 vaccine among children with existing immunity. They also claimed that children with healthy immune systems were at risk of experiencing “adverse events” from the vaccine, including hospitalization, disability, and myocarditis, which is inflammation that can occur around the heart muscle.
The official guide recommended parents raising children with comorbidities or underlying health issues to consider vaccinating their kids under the guidance of a health professional, although they did, however, recognize parents and their rights to ensure the best health options for their children.
Florida’s new guidelines are troublesome for some health officials who say the move might “sow distrust” with the vaccine and its effectiveness in preventing severe COVID-19 hospitalization.
“The Florida Surgeon General’s decision to recommend against COVID-19 vaccination for healthy children flies in the face of the best medical guidance and only serves to further sow distrust in vaccines that have proven to be the safest, most effective defense against severe COVID-19 disease, hospitalization, and death,” said Dr. Daniel McQuillen, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America in a statement, according to TIME.
Dr. Mobeen Rathore of Florida’s American Academy of Pediatrics Chapter echoed a similar sentiment.
“Any time people in power…make a statement, some people will believe that,” he told the publication. “This could result in some children dying.”
“All children should be vaccinated. This is the only way we’re going to get out of this morass of the pandemic.”
Vaccination rates still remain relatively low across the U.S. Only 26 percent of children ages five to 11 are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. The data is higher for young teens between the ages of 12 to 17, with 58 percent of the group now fully vaccinated, but it’s still relatively low in comparison to the adult rate which hovers at 75 percent.
The low numbers may be attributed to lingering skepticism by parents about the vaccine and its impact on children, especially among young tots and pre-teens. A questionnaire conducted by KFF found that 66 percent of parents with children ages 12 to 17 felt as though they had enough information to make an informed decision about vaccinating their child, while parents of kids ages five to 11 were 61 percent certain. The number declined to 43 percent among parents with kids five and younger. Young infants and toddlers under five are still not eligible to receive the vaccine.
As MADAMENOIRE previously reported, back in January, a startling number of children under the age of five were hospitalized with COVID-19 amid the sweeping surge of the Omicron variant. Medical facilities saw more than four in 100,000 children ages four and younger being hospitalized with the disease, although CDC director Rochelle Wollensky reassured Americans that children were less likely to become severely ill from COVID-19 compared to adults.
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