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Fla. parents scramble to find COVID vaccines for infants, toddlers

Christopher O'Donnell and Sam Ogozalek, Tampa Bay Times on

Published in Health & Fitness

TAMPA, Fla. -- It’s been almost two weeks since federal regulators authorized COVID-19 vaccines for infants and preschoolers, but Katie Old Crow still hasn’t been able to get her 14-month-old son vaccinated.

The Town ‘N Country, Florida, mother is waiting for her family’s pediatrician to vaccinate her son, Rollin, because most pharmacies only offer shots to kids ages 3 and older.

Her pediatrician’s office on June 21 told her and other parents that they expected the child-sized doses to become available “within the next few weeks” and would email parents once the shots arrived.

But Old Crow said she hasn’t heard anything since last week. She wonders if the long wait is the result of Florida’s decision against preordering vaccines for children under age 5.

“It’s disappointing because we’ve been waiting for two years,” she said.

Florida was the only state in the nation that did not preorder the newly authorized vaccine for children ages 4 and younger. That’s because the Florida surgeon general recommended that healthy children need not be vaccinated against COVID-19, contrary to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has left the state with a confusing patchwork of vaccine providers that some parents are struggling to navigate.

 

Retail giants Walmart and Walgreens are giving out the shot — but only to children ages 3 and up. CVS MinuteClinic locations will vaccinate children ages 18 months and older. But Publix, a major player in Florida’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, is not offering doses to kids younger than 5.

Florida’s vaccine stance also means neither patients nor doctors can obtain doses through county health departments as they did for older children. In a briefing to a congressional subcommittee Tuesday, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Lapado said that will affect about 33,000 children ages 4 and under who receive primary care at those facilities.

That has parents frustrated and confused, said Rosana Lastra, a pediatrician at Head2Toe Pediatrics in St. Petersburg. It’s toughest for parents of children between 6 and 18 months.

“A lot of families have been having difficulties finding places where they can get (their child) vaccinated,” she said.

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