Facing scathing pressure from medical professionals and the federal government, Florida began allowing pediatricians, children’s hospitals and other doctors on Friday to order coronavirus vaccines for the youngest children, according to state and White House officials. The shift would mean families could get the injections at doctors’ offices, albeit later than any other state in the country.
The White House praised the move as an important first step, calling it a “reversal” by Administration Leader Ron DeSantis, a Republican with presidential ambitions who often presents himself as a defender of President Biden. The administration of Mr. DeSantis insisted she hadn’t deviated from her original position and won’t allow orders until after the Food and Drug Administration approved the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for very young children Friday morning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could grant their approval on Saturday.
Unlike the other 49 states and the District of Columbia, Florida did not allow health care providers to pre-order the vaccines before the federal government’s June 14 deadline. As a result, no doses will be sent to doctors’ offices in the state during the first wave of vaccine shipments, which arrive from Monday. The second wave of pre-ordered doses, which Florida also missed, will arrive about a week later.
“The state of Florida has deliberately missed multiple deadlines to order vaccines to protect its youngest children,” Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters Friday.
In a statement, Bryan Griffin, a deputy press secretary for Mr. DeSantis, said characterizing Florida’s policy as a turnaround was “blatantly inaccurate.”
“We have always maintained the position that the state of Florida has chosen not to be involved in ordering or distributing the vaccine to children under the age of 5,” he said. “The state of Florida does not recommend that the vaccine be administered to healthy children,” he added, referring to guidelines issued by the state in March against the CDC’s advice.
State officials had said on Thursday that doctors could order vaccines if necessary. But to do this, a state portal must be used that only opened Friday for those orders.
dr. Lisa Gwynn, the president of the Florida division of the American Academy of Pediatrics and an associate professor at the University of Miami, said she was in contact with the Florida Department of Health about the vaccines last week and had not been informed that doctors would. . may only place orders after the shots are FDA cleared.
“I’ve been traveling back and forth, interacting with the people in the agency,” she said. “They don’t tell me this.”
Vaccinations for very young children are usually administered in pediatricians’ offices, but unlike pharmacies in the federal Covid vaccine program, doctors cannot order doses themselves, said Dr. Gwynn. She added that it appeared some officials in Florida on Thursday suggested that doctors order vaccines directly from the federal government before the state opened its online portal.
“At first they said providers could order directly from the federal government,” she noted. “That’s not true. We have to order through the state.”
Thursday, Mr. DeSantis’s government’s refusal to pre-order vaccines for state-run medical facilities. So are provincial-level public health services, which are under state control.
“I would say we are positive against the Covid vaccine for young children,” he said. “These are the people who are not at any risk of getting anything.”
On Friday morning, a congressional subcommittee overseeing the response to the coronavirus had sent Mr. DeSantis a letter urging him to reverse his position.
Noah Weiland contributed coverage.