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Florida lags other states in vaccinating children 5-11

The state vaccinated 2.7 percent of its children ages 5-11 last week. That’s on par with the U.S., but below the pace set by other large states.
Medical assistant Cassandra Ross administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Natalie Rosales, 7, while nurse Jordan Dierksheide holds her arm during a vaccination event hosted by Enterprising Latinas at Wimauma Opportunity Center in Wimauma on Nov. 14.
Medical assistant Cassandra Ross administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Natalie Rosales, 7, while nurse Jordan Dierksheide holds her arm during a vaccination event hosted by Enterprising Latinas at Wimauma Opportunity Center in Wimauma on Nov. 14.
Published Nov. 16

Florida’s vaccination rate of young children was on par with the U.S. last week as child-size doses were rolled out across the country. But the state fell behind the vaccination rates of the four other largest states that released child age-specific data.

Florida vaccinated 44,236 children ages 5-11 in the first week they were eligible for inoculation against the COVID-19 virus. That’s fewer than 2.7 percent of kids in that age range.

A reduced dose of the two-part Pfizer vaccine was approved for those children on Nov. 2. Data produced by Pfizer shows the vaccine is safe and effective at preventing symptomatic infection of COVID-19.

Related: A COVID shot for your little one? How these Tampa Bay parents decided

Texas, a Republican state that also relies on private healthcare providers to inoculate young children, vaccinated 4.8 percent of its younger kids in the first week.

A complete comparison across states is not yet possible, as many states do not report vaccination rates by age. As of Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not reported the number of vaccinations for children 5-11 by state.

Florida’s lagging performance in vaccinating children mirrors the state’s approach to preordering child-sized doses of the vaccine. State health officials announced last week they had ordered just 90,000 doses of vaccine — enough to fully vaccinate 2.7 percent of the state’s 1.7 million kids.

Florida’s preordered doses fell far short of other large states, including Texas — which ordered enough doses to vaccine 17.4 percent of that state’s children.

Related: Florida ordered 90,000 child vaccine doses. Texas ordered 1 million.

Florida health officials said the initial preorder was intended to bridge the gap until healthcare providers were able to order doses directly. The state does not intend to order more in coming weeks.

The preordered doses do not include vaccine ordered by private pharmacies, clinics and doctor’s offices. So far, Florida healthcare providers have ordered more than 310,000 doses, and there have been no reported shortages of vaccine. As of Tuesday, CVS and Walgreens locations around the Tampa Bay area had appointments available.

Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed at a Nov. 4 press conference that the state will not operate clinics for children ages 5 to 11.

“We’re not doing vaccine sites,” DeSantis said. “They’re at the pharmacies; they’re readily available for everybody.”

Most young children are vaccinated in pediatric offices, Florida Department of Health spokesperson Weesam Khoury said in an emailed statement. State health officials encouraged parents to discuss vaccination options with their pediatricians.

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The state did not respond to questions about the pace of vaccinations of young children.

Related: Hillsborough, Pinellas health clinics will vaccinate kids 5 to 11

It’s essential to get kids vaccinated as soon as possible, said BayCare Pediatric Service Line medical director Dr. Christina Canody.

“We’re rolling into cold and flu season,” she said. “And we’re seeing a significant comeback of respiratory illnesses.”

Public health experts fear that another wave of COVID-19 infections, along with a bad flu season, could overwhelm Florida’s understaffed hospital systems.

Related: COVID-19 hot spots offer sign of what could be ahead for US

Despite the slow start. Canody is optimistic that parents will soon be vaccinating their kids in higher numbers.

“In general, I think we can expect to follow in the footsteps of what we experienced with our adolescent patients in the state,” she said.

In the first week they were eligible, about 3.4 percent of children ages 10-12 were vaccinated. That number reached 11 percent vaccinated by a week later.

Vaccinations among 12- to 19-year-olds increased faster than for any other age group between June 4 and Sept. 10. About 56 percent of residents 12 to 19 were vaccinated as of last week.

“It did end up being a pretty robust rollout,” said Canody, “even if it did take a little bit of time.”

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How to get vaccinated

The COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 and up and booster shots for eligible recipients are being administered at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and public vaccination sites. Many allow appointments to be booked online. Here’s how to find a site near you:

Find a site: Visit vaccines.gov to find vaccination sites in your zip code.

More help: Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline.

Phone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

TTY: 888-720-7489

Disability Information and Access Line: Call 888-677-1199 or email DIAL@n4a.org.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

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COVID AND THE FLU: Get a flu shot and the COVID vaccine to avoid a ‘twindemic.’

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