Back in November of last year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that children get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it became available to them, and since then, about 22 million children have been vaccinated. However, on Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) announced that they recommend that healthy children in the state not get vaccinated, making Florida the first state to break away from the CDC’s recommendation for child vaccinations. The written copy of Florida’s recommendation stated that “healthy children aged 5 to 17 may not benefit from receiving the currently available COVID-19 vaccine” and “there are certain risks to consider that may outweigh benefits among healthy children.”
The statement came after a roundtable on Coronavirus mitigation policies that was administered by Florida Governor Ron Desantis the day before. The roundtable included a 90-minute discussion that featured 10 doctors and researchers from around the nation, including Joseph Lapado, the state’s surgeon general as well as the leader of FDOH. The event mostly consisted of criticism against many COVID-19 mitigation strategies such as lockdowns, mask mandates, school shutdowns, and most notably, vaccines, with many panelists saying that they were not effective and caused harm.
Joseph Fraiman, an emergency room doctor in Louisiana, was a speaker at the event and stated that the “severe” side-effects of the vaccine outweighed the symptoms of the Coronavirus in children, and condemned the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for not doing enough research on the vaccine. “If you have a healthy child, the chances of that child dying are incredibly low, essentially close to zero if not actually zero,” said Fraiman. “We have no idea if vaccines reduce transmission in kids or in adults.”
Another speaker, California doctor Tracy Beth Høeg, mentioned a study that she authored at the panel about the risks of myocarditis (a heart muscle inflammation) in people, especially boys, who got the coronavirus vaccinations. “Even for boys who are previously healthy who haven’t been previously infected, we didn’t find that there was a benefit [to getting vaccinated], there was actually an overall risk of giving them the second dose,” she said. However, critics of the study have pointed out that it had not been peer-reviewed and PolitiFact also reported that flawed data, as well as conflicts of interest found in the study (One of the co-authors, Josh Steveson, is associated with a group known as Rational Ground which opposes mandatory vaccinations. However, Høeg, who at the time was affiliated with the University of California, said that that paper in no way had any relationship or sponsorship with this group) might have led to the researchers’ findings coming out incorrectly.
Other panelists who attended the event include three authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, a highly controversial document that claimed lockdowns ravaged public health; as well as Robert Malone, a vaccine researcher who stated that the “deep state” prevented doctors from using alternative Coronavirus treating methods such as hydroxychloroquine, which copious studies have turned down as it was found to have no clinical benefits.
This event has caused much criticism from experts in the medical field as well as the White House. “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,” stated White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, also talked in an interview with CNN about some of the points that were made on Monday’s panel.
“Although it is true that children are less likely to be infected and it is true that children are less likely to be severely infected, they can still be infected, and they can still be severely infected,” said Offit, “And if you have a vaccine which is safe, which this is, and is effective, which this is, then you give it. What the Florida surgeon general didn’t do was in any sense explain himself. What possible reason could he have for not giving this vaccine to children and putting them in a position where they have to suffer this disease?” Offit has deemed the announcement by the state surgeon general to be “wholly irresponsible and completely unsupported.”
The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP) has also stated that they disagree with their state’s decision. “The COVID-19 vaccine is our best hope for ending the pandemic,” explained FCAAP President Dr. Lisa Gwynn. “The Surgeon General’s comments today misrepresent the benefits of the vaccine, which has been proven to prevent serious illness, hospitalizations, and long-term symptoms from COVID-19 in children and adolescents, including those who are otherwise healthy.”