TAMPA, Fla. — For the first time, it's becoming more clear how many Florida kids in foster care have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
In August, the ABC Action News I-Teamrevealed neither the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) nor Eckerd Connects know how many children in its care have been vaccinated. The state is not tracking that data.
How many Florida children in foster care are vaccinated? The state doesn’t know
Eckerd Connects is the lead agency contracted to handle foster care for the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.
Looking at ages 12 and older, the percentage of kids known to be vaccinated in foster care is about half of the general population of Florida children in the same age range — roughly 26%.
“With this public health crisis, and this current situation, to have that many kids not vaccinated I think should be concerning to everyone," said Robin Rosenberg, deputy director of Florida's Children First.
The nonprofit advocates for the rights of kids served by state agencies.
Rosenberg shared data with the I-Team from a Medicaid provider that works in the child welfare arena.
"This is data reflecting the number of kids who are with that one particular Medicaid provider, but that’s about 70% of the foster kids in Florida use that child welfare specialty provider," Rosenberg said of Sunshine Health's Florida Medicaid Child Welfare Specialty Plan.
As of late October, about 26% of kids in foster care on the Child Welfare Specialty Plan ages 12 and older had been vaccinated, compared to 56% of all Florida children in the same age group.
“What that data tells us is that the child welfare system is lagging behind in getting vaccinations for children who are eligible and who want them and whose caregivers want to help them get the vaccine," Rosenberg said.
This comes after a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services went out to child welfare leaders in June.
It said, in part:
“As a disproportionate percentage of children and youth in foster care are children of color from underserved communities with longstanding barriers to equitable health care, digital technology, and other crucial supports, it is especially important to be proactive and take all measures possible to prioritize access to vaccinations."
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Beyond the data, Rosenberg said there needs to be action.
“We would hope that more agencies, people on the ground, guardians ad litem, foster parents, would promote health and safety of the children and hopefully overcome any barriers," she said.
The I-Team reached out to Eckerd Connects regarding the findings and were told the agency has no comment.
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