Florida did not preorder any doses of coronavirus vaccines for very young children from the federal government, state officials said Thursday, arguing that the state had to be involved in what they called a “convoluted vaccine distribution process.”
How much Florida’s decision would impede the distribution of the vaccines in the state in the coming days was not immediately clear.
The Florida Department of Health said in a statement that it did not place an advance order for pediatric vaccines in part because “the federal government has a track record of developing inconsistent and unsustainable Covid-19 policies.”
The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said at a news conference on Thursday that Florida was the only state to abstain from preordering the pediatric shots. Other states have ordered millions of doses, which could be available for use as soon as next week. The deadline for preorders was Tuesday, according to a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services.
An expert advisory panel set up by the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously on Wednesday to recommend authorizing the use of the Moderna vaccine for children ages 6 months through 5 years, and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those ages 6 months through 4 years. The agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to act on the matter in the next few days.
In its statement on Thursday, the Florida Health Department said doctors could order the vaccines if needed. But Ms. Jean-Pierre said the state’s failure to submit a preorder meant that pediatricians in Florida “will not have immediate ready access to vaccines.”
Michael Ganio, the senior director of pharmacy practice and quality at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, said that if the state does not order doses, then providers in Florida will not be able to get them through state channels. Some can order them directly from the federal government.
Pharmacies enrolled in a federal program have been able to do that, as have federally supported community health clinics. Biden administration officials were looking into ways to distribute doses to other providers in Florida if the state continued to resist ordering on its own, according to administration officials who were not authorized to discuss the planning publicly. A spokesman for CVS Health, one of the largest drugstore chains in the country, said on Thursday that the company would order doses for its stores from the federal government.
Families will be able to consult pharmacy websites to check on inventory, as well as vaccines.gov, a federal site that tracks availability. As doses are shipped and make their way to pharmacies and other sites, the federal site will gradually update to show where they are, one official said.
The Florida Health Department is led by the state surgeon general, Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, who was appointed by the Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, in September 2021. Dr. Ladapo has frequently expressed skepticism about coronavirus vaccines, has strongly opposed mask mandates and lockdowns, and has made a number of false or misleading claims about the coronavirus, including that face masks do not stop its spread and that the infections it causes are less dead than those from influenza.
The department said in its statement that it chose not to participate in distributing pediatric vaccine doses because it does not think that healthy children should receive the shots. That stance, which the department has taken since March, contradicts the guidance of the CDC, which has urged parents to get their eligible children vaccinated regardless of whether they are healthy or have medical conditions that make them particularly vulnerable. Children 5 and older are already eligible.
Mr. DeSantis said at a news conference on Thursday that there would not be any state-led programs in Florida to vaccinate young children, and that while parents were free to choose, the state recommended against vaccinating them.