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Florida Surgeon General is 'prioritizing politics over science, public health'

Decision ‘paves the way to undermine national vaccination programs,’ expert says

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo reportedly announced during a Monday roundtable discussion that he would recommend against vaccinating healthy children with the COVID-19 vaccine. Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine pediatric infectious disease experts Dr. William MullerDr. Ravi Jhaveri and Dr. Leena Mithal call the move “disappointing but unsurprising.” 

Muller is currently leading the Moderna pediatric clinical trial in children under the age of 12 at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, where he also is a pediatrician. Jhaveri is the division head of pediatric infectious diseases at Feinberg and a pediatrician at Lurie Children’s. Mithal is an assistant professor of pediatrics (infectious diseases) with clinical expertise in neonatal and congenital infections and a pediatrician at Lurie Children’s. They are available for interviews with journalists as this story unfolds. 

Journalists interested in interviewing the experts can contact Kristin Samuelson at

“It is disappointing but sadly unsurprising that the Florida Surgeon General has chosen to prioritize politics over science and public health,” said Muller, an associate professor of pediatrics (infectious diseases) and associate chief research officer for clinical trials in the department of pediatrics at Feinberg. 

“We have seen children who were previously healthy suffer immensely after severe bouts of COVID-19,” said Jhaveri, also a professor of pediatrics (infectious diseases) at Feinberg. “The evidence is overwhelming that these vaccines are safe and effective, so this decision is not rooted in science but rather in other non-scientific motivations. This decision also paves the way to undermine national vaccination programs because it is a slippery slope to expand this flawed logic to other vaccines.” 

“Vaccination of children has benefits of reducing hospitalization and severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection and also decreases likelihood of getting the infection,” Mithal said.  “I am disappointed local government would recommend against vaccination, which could help protect children from morbidity from SARS-CoV-2 infection and help decrease spread from a public health perspective.” 

More quotes from Muller: 

“As more data on the COVID-19 vaccines are gathered, they are proving to be effective in children in decreasing the risk of hospitalization, of progression to severe disease and potentially also of the rare complication of multisystem inflammatory disease in children (MIS-C), which can occur after this infection. Although death from COVID-19 is fortunately rare in children, it is not unheard of. It is also worth recognizing that hospitalization is not a benign event for a child or their families. 

“It is underappreciated that there may be additional benefits to families and children from immunization against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Although it is true in many cases that children may have mild symptoms from this infection, we also know that they are able to transmit this infection to others, potentially including family members such as grandparents who may be at high risk of severe disease. Decreasing the risk of transmission within families has effects on school and work attendance; children who test positive are generally kept out of school, often requiring parents to work from home or take time away from work. Importantly, these vaccines have been very safe, particularly when compared with the risk associated with the infection. The decision by the Florida Department of Public Health is, therefore, difficult to understand from the perspective of science.”