WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Healthy children in Florida shouldn't get the COVID-19 vaccine - that was the message from Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo on Monday, who announced the Florida Department of Health will officially recommend against the COVID vaccine for healthy children.
In doing so, Ladapo said Florida is the first state in the country to directly contradict guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, which currently recommends that everyone ages 5 and older get the coronavirus vaccine.
Speaking during a COVID roundtable in West Palm Beach on Monday, Ladapo cited a recent study from the New York State Department of Health, which looked at Pfizer's coronavirus shot and found the vaccine's effectiveness against hospitalizations in children ages 5 to 11 dropped from 100% to 48% over the course of about six weeks between December 13 through January 24.
During that same time, the vaccine's effectiveness at preventing COVID infections in children plummeted from 68% to 12%, the study found.
The study has not yet undergone peer review, which is considered the gold standard for medical research.
"We're kind of scraping at the bottom of the barrel — particularly with healthy kids — in terms of actually being able to quantify with any accuracy and any confidence the even potential of benefit," Ladapo said Monday of the vaccine's effectiveness.
Currently, only Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children 5 and older.
According to the CDC, roughly two million children between the ages of 5 and 11 have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic started in early 2020.
More than 8,300 children in that age group have been hospitalized for COVID-19, and the coronavirus is one of the top 10 causes of death for children, the CDC said.
In addition, the CDC said children who've been infected with COVID-19 are at an increased risk of developing a serious condition known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), where a child's heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs can become inflamed.
The CDC said that, since the pandemic began two years ago, more than 2,300 cases of MIS-C have been reported in children ages 5 through 11.
"Vaccinating children can help protect family members, including siblings who are not eligible for vaccination and family members who may be at increased risk of getting very sick if they are infected," the CDC said in a statement on its website. "Vaccination can also help keep children from getting seriously sick even if they do get COVID-19."
Pfizer had asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for children six months through 4 years old, but later put that request on hold to do more research on the effectiveness of a three-dose vaccine series on that age group.
That data is expected sometime in April.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who's running as a Democrat against Gov. Ron DeSantis in the November election, called Ladapo's comments "dangerous COVID-19 misinformation that goes against all mainstream medical guidance."
"I urge all Floridians to continue to follow the COVID-19 guidance provided by their doctors, in addition to the FDA and the CDC, and not the anti-science conspiracy theories DeSantis and Ladapo are pushing," Fried said in a written statement.