Florida Health Justice Project and Disability Rights Florida Respond to Florida Surgeon General's New Guidance Against COVID Vaccines for All Children
Florida’s Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo’s recent guidance – that “healthy children aged 5 to 17 may not benefit from receiving the currently available COVID-19 vaccine,” and that “risks of administering COVID-19 vaccination among healthy children may outweigh the benefits”-- is both wrong and dangerous.
As clearly stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and recommended for all children aged five and up. Further, they are a critical tool in moving from the pandemic to the endemic phase of COVID-19. This has been the consistent message of public health leaders across the country and the globe. Florida’s outlier position, and the alarming politicization of this key mitigation strategy, is reckless.
The danger posed by COVID-19 to unvaccinated children themselves, as well to their high-risk peers who want and need to safely attend school, cannot be dismissed. During December 2021, as the Omicron variant surged, the hospitalization rate among unvaccinated adolescents nationwide was six times higher than among fully vaccinated adolescents. Nearly 950,000 children and youth, aged 5-19, in Florida have contracted COVID-19, and 42 have died. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently ranks COVID-19 as one of the top 10 causes of death for children ages five to eleven.
We urge Dr. Ladapo to immediately stop the spread of misinformation. Every reliable study confirms that the best way to end the threat of the pandemic is to encourage vaccinations among all Florida residents, including all eligible children. The Department of Health should commit to educating parents about the importance of vaccinating children, including healthy children, against COVID. Nothing less than the health of Florida’s most vulnerable children and adults is at stake.