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Florida says healthy children don't need COVID vaccines

Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Florida's surgeon general, appears with Gov. Ron DeSantis in November 2021.
Chris O'Meara
Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Florida's surgeon general, appears with Gov. Ron DeSantis in November 2021.

Bucking the advice of health experts nationally, Florida will advise against vaccinating healthy children against COVID-19.

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo made the announcement Monday after a panel of physicians assembled by Gov. Ron DeSantis discussed what they considered the lack of evidence on vaccine benefits for children.

Florida “is going to be the first state to officially recommend against the COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children,” Ladapo said. He did not say when or specify ages.

The panel criticized coronavirus lockdowns and vaccine mandates and lamented what they portrayed as political decisions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC has said vaccines provide strong protection for children 5 and older, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared the Pfizer vaccine for use in children as young as 5.

DeSantis' panel said researchers had not sufficiently weighed the benefits of vaccine against the potential harm. Ladapo last month discouraged mask-wearing to protect against COVID-19 and encouraged physicians to use their own judgment on treatment of the disease, including the use of off-label medications.

DeSantis, a potential presidential candidate in 2024, has risen to prominence across the country for opposing mask mandates and vaccine requirements. His roundtable Monday was titled "The Curtain Close on COVID Theater."

The title was a spinoff of an event that put DeSantis in the spotlight last week after he admonished masked high school students in Tampa to stop "this COVID theater."

"You do not have to wear those masks," he told the students. "I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it's not doing anything, and we've got to stop this COVID theater. So if you want to wear it, fine, but this is, this is ridiculous."

The CDC announced last month that most Americans were free to shed their masks in public spaces as the coronavirus has waned. But the advice does not apply to areas of high transmission, including Hillsborough County.

On Monday, physicians across the state reacted with alarm to the idea of not vaccinating children.

Tina Carroll- Scott, medical director at South Miami Children’s Clinic, told NBC News that the directive was “irresponsible and incorrect.”

The global death toll from the pandemic surpassed 6 million people on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. U.S. deaths are approaching 1 million.

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. You can reach Randy at or on Twitter, @rroguski.