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Florida pharmacies, doctor's offices work to get COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5

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Posted at 7:00 AM, Jun 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-20 07:55:10-04

TAMPA, Fla.  — Pharmacies and doctor's offices are preparing to vaccinate children as young as 6 months against COVID-19. Supply may be limited at first in Florida.

"Right now we are going through a surge,” said Dr. Laura Arline, Chief Quality Officer for BayCare Health System.

That’s why many doctors believe getting children as young as 6 months vaccinated against COVID-19 is more important than ever.

“There were 30,000 hospitalizations in this age group since the pandemic started so it’s not that it doesn’t make these kids sick,” said Arline.

While COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in this age group aren’t common, they do happen. Health officials said these vaccines that have now been authorized by the FDA and recommended by the CDC will offer younger kids some protection.

“I urge the parents to talk to their pediatricians, not listen to social media, not listen to family and friends that may not be experts, don’t listen to your politicians, listen to the pediatricians that you’ve chosen that you trust,” said Dr. Joseph Perno, Chief Medical Officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

However, actually getting access to the vaccine in Florida is the issue. Florida is the only state that did not pre-order any COVID-19 vaccines for this age group because state officials said they do not recommend them for all children even though public health experts nationwide have criticized those statements.

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“I really have no idea about what that means in terms of total access to everybody in the state. I would certainly imagine at least it’s going to create some sort of supply chain issue if other states are getting it,” said Dr. David Berger, Board Certified Pediatrician at Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care.

Pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS are able to order vaccines directly from the federal government so some of those locally will have the shot, but not for eligible infants.

  • Walgreens will vaccinate children ages 3 and older
  • CVS will vaccinate children 18 months and older at its MinuteClinics
  • Southeastern Grocers, which include Winn-Dixie and Fresco y Más, said they pre-ordered the vaccines from the government for their pharmacies for ages 3 and up.

“It’s still unclear for those of us, the pediatricians, the children’s hospitals, when we’ll get supply and when we’ll have it,” said Perno.

The problem is most likely some of the only places that will vaccinate eligible infants are pediatrician's offices.

Officials from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg said they usually receive their vaccines from the Florida SHOTS program which is through the Health Department.

“It’s unclear to us whether Florida SHOTS will have the vaccines or not. It has not been made clear. We’re looking at other options if we aren’t able to obtain it through our normal channels,” said Perno.

“It sounds like there’s a chance at least to start off with that there will be parents who want to go out and get it who won’t be able to if there’s a supply issue,” said Berger.

Many vaccinations across the country will begin Tuesday. Experts said parents in Florida should start calling their neighborhood pharmacies and doctor’s offices now, to ask when they’ll have the shots.

Once vaccines are distributed, people can check for local shots online.

“Now that we’re here I know there’s many, many parents that want to get their children immunized so I’m hopeful there won’t be any delays. If there are I hope they’re very, very minimal so we can go ahead and get this last population caught up with everyone else,” said Perno.