Florida captured national attention Monday when state surgeon general Joseph Ladapo announced that it would be the first state in the nation to “officially recommend against the COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children.”
That advice, which the White House called “deeply disturbing,” is counter to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One day later, the state released its written guidance with a few more specifics.
The wording of the guidance is slightly softer than Ladapo’s verbal announcement Monday, saying that “based on currently available data, healthy children aged 5 to 17 may not benefit from receiving the currently available COVID-19 vaccine,” and that “there are certain risks to consider that may outweigh benefits among healthy children.” Vaccines for children younger than 5 have not yet been approved at the federal level.
The department’s guidance notes that “children with underlying conditions are the best candidates” for the shots.
The recommendation also cites multiple studies on some of the risks associated with the coronavirus vaccine. Some of those same risks and studies were referenced Monday during a roundtable event held by Gov. Ron DeSantis that included doctors and researchers who have vocally cast doubt on the necessity of pandemic mitigation strategies like vaccines and mask mandates.
One cited study from New York, for example, determined that COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness declined significantly over a span of two months for kids aged 5 to 11.
However, it has not been peer-reviewed, and because of that, a disclaimer on the report online states that it should “not be used to guide clinical practice.” The authors also stress in their conclusion that though protection against infection diminishes quickly, “vaccination of children 5-11 years was protective against severe disease and is recommended.”
Another study in the state’s guidance digs into the risk of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. The researchers found increased risk of the condition after the second dose of the vaccine, particularly for boys. However, the instances of myocarditis were rare, at about 106 per million doses for boys ages 16 and 17, the highest risk group.
Research done by the CDC, conducted by one of the same authors as the study cited by the state, found that children age 16 and under were 37 times more likely to get myocarditis after being infected with COVID-19 if they were unvaccinated.
More than 804,000 Florida children younger than 16 have contracted the coronavirus, according to Florida Department of Health data. Forty-two of those children died.
About 22 percent of the state’s five to 11 population have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau reporter Kirby Wilson contributed to this report.