PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — A Palm Beach County pediatrician said Tuesday the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 will be "readily available soon" at doctor's offices in South Florida.
Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine, the president of the Palm Beach Pediatric Society, joined U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Florida, at a news conference outside a CVS on North Military Trail near West Palm Beach to discuss the availability of the vaccine for the youngest children.
"This is the time for families to seriously consider having their children vaccinated," Fox-Levine said.
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Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have approved COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old, meaning local pediatricians, pharmacies, and the Health Care District of Palm Beach County can now order shots directly from the federal government.
The Florida Department of Health, however, has elected not to order doses of the vaccine, arguing there's not enough data to support the vaccine for healthy children.
"Vaccines should be readily available soon," Fox-Levine said Tuesday. "Our office has been able to order vaccine as of last Friday."
Calling the vaccine "safe and effective," Fox-Levine said the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends both vaccines for children as soon as shots are available. She added, however, it's important for parents to talk their pediatrician because there may be unique circumstances for every child.
In addition to COVID-19, Fox-Levine said she's seeing many cases of influenza-A and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) among patients in her office right now.
"There's a lot of illness. In my 20 years of my career, I have never seen so much sickness in the month of June," Fox-Levine said. "And honestly, I can't even say I have in the winter months. This is really one of those years."
Frankel said there have been roughly 88,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in children nationwide this month. She added that while pediatricians and pharmacies can order the vaccines from the federal government, county health departments will not have shots for now.
"Unfortunately, because of, I think, the extreme politics of Florida, Florida is not accepting the vaccines at the health departments," Frankel said. "But parents should know that there is a way for them to get their kids vaccinated in Florida if they want."
If your child has had COVID-19 and is not vaccinated, Fox-Levine recommended that parents wait at least 90 days since the illness before getting their child vaccinated.
"Vaccine provides a broader neutralizing antibody response than natural infection," Fox-Levine said. "The best protection will likely come from a mix of natural immunity that we're getting from the environment, and vaccine immunity."
WPTV contacted the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, which said it has ordered doses of the Moderna vaccine for children under 5 and "is developing plans to provide them at our C.L. Brumback Primary Care Clinics."