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Despite confusion caused by Gov. Ron DeSantis' decision not to preorder COVID-19 vaccines for the youngest children, some places in Palm Beach County are offering immunizations, but parents might not get them from the doctor they're familiar with.
Retail pharmacies and some clinics serving the poor preordered directly from the federal government and received vaccines this week, but some physicians, which order through the state, have yet to the receive them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines Saturday for kids ages 6 months to 5 years old.
CVS' MinuteClinic will administer shots to kids as young as 18 months old, while Walgreens is scheduling shots for children as young as 3. Parents can schedule inoculation appointments at those pharmacies on their websites.
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The nonprofit FoundCare, with clinics throughout Palm Beach County, got enough Pfizer doses Tusday morning to immunize 100 kids, CEO Chris Irizarry said. He expects another shipment of the Moderna vaccine to arrive this week, which could cover another 100 children.
Parents can call FoundCare at 561-432-5849 to schedule an appointment. As a federally qualified health center, FoundCare serves patients regardless of their ability to pay. It preordered shots directly from the Biden administration.
Pediatric Partners, a private practice with offices in Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens and Boca Raton, is also offering shots to current patients and to children whose parents register them, said Dr. Tommy Schechtman, head of Pediatric Partners. The practice received "a few hundred" doses of the vaccine Tuesday, he said.
Parents can go to pediatricpartners.com and register using the "Patient Portal," or call 561-741-0000.
"We're very pleased that the federal government helped facilitate this," said Schechtman. Until Friday, he said, he could not order vaccines through the state Health Department's online system, as he and other physicians could previously for COVID vaccines approved for older age groups.
The Health Care District of Palm Beach County, which runs seven C.L. Brumback Primary Care Clinics that have pediatric care, also orders directly from the federal government. It expects a shipment this week of Moderna doses, spokeswoman Robin Kish said.
While parents can get their youngest inoculated at pharmacies, medical staff working there might lack experience vaccinating nervous babies, toddlers or little kids, Schechtman said.
Florida is the only state that did not preorder vaccines from the federal government for kids younger than 5.
The president of the Palm Beach Pediatric Society, Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine, said she was unsure when exactly her practice or that of other pediatricians in the county would receive shots from the state.
Lois Frankel: 'Extreme politics of Florida' is causing problems
She hoped vaccines ordered from the state would arrive as early as next week, she said Tuesday during a news conference at a CVS on the corner of Military Trail and Okeechobee Boulevard, just outside West Palm Beach.
"In my 20 years of my career, I have never seen so much sickness in the month of June," Fox-Levine said at the event hosted by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat. "And honestly, I can't even say I have in the winter months. This is really one of those years."
"Unfortunately," Frankel said, "because of, I think, the extreme politics of Florida, Florida is not accepting the vaccines at the (local) health departments."
"There hasn't been any scientific reason for" not allowing preorders, Dr. Lisa Gwynn, president of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said Tuesday in an interview with WBUR, the National Public Radio affiliate in Boston. She added, however, that some pediatricians in the state had started receiving vaccine shipments.
The pediatric society posted Friday on its website urging people to call and email DeSantis to get doses to Florida.
The state-run Palm Beach County Health Department did not answer questions Tuesday afternoon about availability of the shots. Throughout Florida's vaccine rollout, the agency has partnered with local doctors and organizations to administer inoculations countywide.
Panicked parents messaged Fox-Levine, she said, when it was first reported last week that Florida did not preorder under-5 shots. "We had people saying, 'Do we have to go to Georgia to get our child vaccinated?'"
Florida's neighbor to the north worked smoothly with physicians there, Gwynn's counterpart there said.
Weeks before the federal government approved the under-5 shots, Georgia health officials emailed pediatricians that they could preorder vaccines.
"They kinda telegraphed when this was coming," said Dr. Hugo Scornik, president of the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "That's a credit to our Department of Public Health. We order through them. They have just been really helpful. They're sort of our point of contact as far as ordering the vaccine."
Shots started rolling out in Georgia pediatricians' offices Monday, Fox 5 Atlanta reported, as the state observed Juneteenth. Scornik said the communication between doctors and the state made it easy for them to smoothly plan inoculations.
When asked what DeSantis would say to his constituents concerned about getting their kids immunized, representatives for his office reiterated that the state recommends against vaccinating kids younger than 5. Florida is also the only state doing this, going against recommendations from the overwhelming majority of doctors and scientists, as well the CDC.
"This current surgeon general (Joseph Ladapo) is an anti-vaxxer to some degree, so he's going to make an argument to support his philosophy," Dr. Larry Bush, former president of the Palm Beach County Medical Society said. Ladapo, who heads the state Health Department, issued the recommendation in March.
Will Ron DeSantis get his young children vaccinated?
DeSantis has not said whether he and his wife, first lady Casey DeSantis, plan to refrain from immunizing their children, Mamie (age 2), Mason (3) and Madison (5).
Casey DeSantis was diagnosed last year with breast cancer. The governor said in March that she is "considered cancer free." COVID is especially deadly to people with underlying health conditions.
Although children may be less likely to suffer severe illness from the respiratory disease, they can spread it to parents. Casey DeSantis has not said if she is vaccinated.
Ron DeSantis said in April 2021 that he got the Johnson & Johnson single-dose shot, which has been shown to be the weakest of the federally approved vaccines against the coronavirus' omicron variant. He has not said whether he has received any more shots.
Chris Persaud is The Palm Beach Post's data reporter. Email him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: COVID vaccine for children under 5 in Palm Beach County: Where to get it