DeSantis nixes state vaccine sites for young children; faith leaders step up to encourage families

By: - November 12, 2021 3:46 pm

Doctor placing adhesive bandage on little girl’s arm after vaccination. Credit: Getty Images.

Faith leaders in Florida are encouraging parents to get their young children vaccinated against COVID-19 after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that his administration isn’t setting up state-run vaccine sites for those kids.

Although Florida offered state-run vaccine sites for adults during the pandemic, DeSantis said during a press conference this month that Florida has no plans to open sites for kids ages 5 to 11 — a group that received final approval from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week.

Some school districts in the state have made efforts to launch vaccine clinics on campuses, while pediatricians and retail pharmacies plan to offer the smaller doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for kids.

During a press conference on Nov. 4 in Jacksonville, the governor said kids would access the vaccines through “the normal medical system the way it is.”

“We’re not doing vaccine sites. They’re at the pharmacies, they’re readily available for everybody,” he said.

“There’s no shortage of availability of any of that, but it’s not something that the state is administering at this point,” adding that the doses have been “available at every drugstore” since April.

DeSantis made those remarks after a reporter asked about setting up vaccination sites just like the the sites for adults, according to a Fox 13 News account.

The Florida Phoenix has yet to receive a response to a request for comment from DeSantis’ communications office about why the state hasn’t operated state-run vaccine sites for young children.

Faith in Public Life, a national movement of faith leaders, launched a grassroots campaign called “Keep the Faith, Get Vaccinated” on Friday, offering educational resources and information about vaccine sites, according to a press release.

The group plans to gather organizers in both Georgia and Florida to help spread the word about vaccinations among kids.

“Protecting and loving our neighbor is a core value of faith traditions everywhere — getting vaccinated is an expression of that,” Joey McKinnon, Florida director of the group, said in an email to the Phoenix on Friday.

McKinnon added: “As a parent, I know getting our school-aged kids vaccinated will help keep them healthy and provide peace of mind to families here in Florida. The FDA-approved Pfizer kids vaccine is a way for our communities to get back to normal and to finally put this pandemic behind us.”

DeSantis’ remarks came amid controversy over vaccine mandates that has led to a special session in the Florida Legislature next week, with Republicans filing legislation to strengthen prohibitions against schools requiring kids to wear masks or get vaccinated.

“Florida families deserve leadership that builds trust in vaccines and public health efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19,” McKinnon said.

“We call on the governor to enact policies that help keep Florida families safe, not fight them in a special legislative session or in the courts.”

During his press conference in Jacksonville, DeSantis reiterated his stance against vaccine mandates in Florida, saying, “There will be no mandate for COVID vaccines for children allowed.”

The doses for children ages 5 to 11 are different from vaccines approved for those 12 and older, as previously reported by the Phoenix. Smaller needles and doses are used for children below age 12.

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Health announced it has ordered more than 90,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for kids for delivery this week.

That number runs far lower than in other states, according to a Tampa Bay Times report. Texas has ordered about 1 million doses, according to the report, and California ordered 860,000, followed by Michigan with 287,000 shots ordered.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.