Florida officially issues guidance against COVID-19 vaccines for kids without underlying conditions

Orlando Sentinel | By Caroline Catherman | March 8, 2022

Children ages 5-17 without underlying health conditions can forego COVID-19 vaccinations, the Florida Department of Health said in new guidance released Tuesday.

This announcement was promised by Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo at a news conference Monday.

“It is essential for health care practitioners to analyze existing data on the COVID-19 vaccine alongside parents when deciding to vaccinate children,” said Ladapo in a news release. “Based on currently available data, the risks of administering COVID-19 vaccination among healthy children may outweigh the benefits. That is why these decisions should be made on an individual basis, and never mandated.”

The new DOH guidelines state that children with underlying conditions are the best candidates for the COVID-19 vaccine and parents should talk with their pediatrician.

The announcement cited healthy children’s low risk of developing severe COVID-19 and the potential risk of myocarditis as a side effect from the vaccine among other arguments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh potential risks. Myocarditis is a rare side effect and serious health events after COVID-19 vaccination are infrequent, the site explains.

The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents more than 2,500 pediatricians across the state, responded to Ladapo’s comments on Monday with a statement recommending the COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5 and older in Florida.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is our best hope for ending the pandemic,” said Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics President Lisa Gwynn in a news release. “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.”

Healthy children can still develop a serious case of COVID-19. A CDC study found about one-third of children hospitalized with COVID-19 did not have any pre-existing conditions that put them at increased risk of hospitalization. The study looked at six children’s hospitals, including one in Florida, during the summer delta surge.

This is a breaking story, check back for updates.

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