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Gov. DeSantis’ hypocrisy on parental rights | Editorial
Florida is the only state that failed to preorder child COVID vaccines.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis after publicly signing the so-called "individual freedom" bill during a news conference at Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School in Hialeah Gardens on April 22. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis after publicly signing the so-called "individual freedom" bill during a news conference at Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School in Hialeah Gardens on April 22. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP) [ DANIEL A. VARELA | AP ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Jun. 17

Is there anyone’s life Ron DeSantis won’t endanger in his anticipated run for the White House?

The Republican governor’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic hit another low point Tuesday, as Florida became the only state in the union not to preorder COVID-19 vaccines for the nation’s youngest children. The failure by the third-largest state to meet Tuesday’s deadline could delay delivery of the much-awaited vaccines to Florida’s pediatricians, clinics, pharmacies and pediatric hospitals.

This is another dumb move by a governor and the unfit surgeon general he appointed that emboldens the COVID quackery that is prolonging this crisis. In a statement late Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health said it didn’t preorder because it doesn’t recommend vaccines for healthy children, a ridiculous position that contradicts federal health guidelines that recommend everyone age 5 and up get vaccinated. It’s any wonder that anyone takes the department’s advice at all.

Thousands of medical facilities across the country will get the doses, according to the Miami Herald, but Florida facilities that rely on the federal pipeline may not until the state places its order. The timing is critical; this week, U.S. health experts evaluate whether to recommend Moderna and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines for young children. The nation has about 18 million babies, toddlers and preschoolers in the last age group awaiting approval for the vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration’s panel of independent experts on Wednesday approved Moderna’s two-shot regimen for children 6 months through age 5, and Pfizer’s three-dose series for those 6 months to 4 years, saying both vaccines appear to be safe and effective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will convene its own experts late this week, and once approved, the doses will go out.

Chain pharmacies have their own federal supply. But given the limits on who these retail outlets will vaccinate, parents of infants and toddlers will be more reliant on pediatricians and medical facilities most affected by the state’s failure to act. The FDA’s vaccine chief, Peter Marks, said Wednesday the U.S. saw a “troubling surge” in child infections during the omicron wave. In the U.S., the pandemic has killed 442 children age 4 and under, Marks said. While far more adults have died, the virus still poses a risk to children.

The issue is not just smart public health policy but the rights of Floridians to have the tools to make responsible choices. And once again, DeSantis has denied Floridians an opportunity to safeguard their families, while also exposing his rank hypocrisy to boot. It wasn’t enough that the governor fought schools over masks, targeted businesses over vaccines, downplayed immunizations and misrepresented the science. DeSantis did all those things in the name of freedom or parental rights. And now he’s making it harder for parents who want the child vaccines.

Call it what you will: Irresponsible, autocratic, politically predatory, dishonest, uncaring, big government at its worst. It’s certainly consistent. And it comes as COVID-19 infections in Florida have risen for 12 weeks straight. Nearly 9 in 10 Floridians live in counties with “high” levels of virus. It’s taken a year-and-a-half to protect the youngest among us. But hey, there’s a Republican presidential primary to worry about.

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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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