Across the state of Florida, desperate moms are pulling their hair out, frantically searching – in vain – for vaccination shots to save their children from the deadly coronavirus. And Governor Ron DeSantis was refusing to help. But now, thanks to relentless media pressure, DeSantis has wisely “reversed course” on his cruel policy.
That’s the false story many national and state media outlets – egged on by the Biden Administration – are telling their readers and viewers.
From the Miami Herald to ABC News, left-leaning news rooms, eager to slander DeSantis, gleefully reported that Florida was the only state in the nation not to pre-order COVID-19 vaccine supply in advance of the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) expected approval for use of the vaccine in children between 6 months and 5 years of age. And that much is true. But those media outlets didn’t stop there. The political spin also seeped into their stories to paint a completely false account of the demand – or lack thereof – for sticking toddlers with the vaccine. For example, according to the Miami Herald, Florida’s policy stance guaranteed “a delay in access for parents across the state, according to two U.S. government sources.” The claim seemed to have no basis in reality.
Note the “government sources” cited by the Herald, which inexplicably tried to mask their identity. Despite the Herald’s best efforts, it didn’t take a detective to figure out those “government sources” were staffers in Joe Biden’s White House. Unlike the Miami Herald, ABC News didn’t bother to keep Biden’s fingerprints off the attack: they put it right in the headline.
The source alone should have caused the Miami Herald and other news outlets to question the story, so obvious that it was “fake news” from the very start. But instead, they painted a false picture that parents were clamoring for their toddlers to get the vaccine, even though statistics reveal that nationally two out of every three kids aged 5-11, which have been eligible for the vaccine for months, have yet to receive a shot. The reason isn’t due to a vaccine shortage. The vast majority of parents just aren’t all that interested in sticking their younger kids with these vaccines.
But a second narrative started to emerge in some stories that was even worse, painting the picture that Florida is anti-vaccine in general, when the actual policy is quite the opposite. Florida’s official stance is that the decision to get a vaccine must be made on a case-by-case basis. Here’s a direct quote from Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo:
“It is essential for health care practitioners to analyze existing data on the COVID-19 vaccine alongside parents when deciding to vaccinate children. Based on currently available data, the risks of administering COVID-19 vaccination among healthy children may outweigh the benefits. That is why these decisions should be made on an individual basis, and never mandated.”
Fortunately, readers who stuck with the false stories and sifted through the political slander baked into reporting eventually came to the truth: Florida doctors, hospitals and retailers like CVS and Walgreens have plenty of vaccine supply available for parents who really want to pump their toddlers full of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The first wave of those false stories broke earlier in the week, but it didn’t take long for most people to realize that they were politically-motivated headlines, backed by spin and conjecture rather than fact. The narrative started to lose steam later in the week, and that’s when the White House decided to launch a new salvo of political bilge, claiming that DeSantis had suddenly “reversed course” on his toddler vaccine policy in the face of relentless media pressure.
McClatchyDC, which owns more than 30 major newspapers across the country, including the Miami Herald, took the White House’s lead and trumpeted this new “news” across the country – and again, they didn’t bother to hide the Biden Administration’s fingerprints on the story:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is now allowing healthcare providers — including pediatricians and children’s hospitals — to order COVID-19 vaccines from a federal program for children between six months and 5 years old, a reversal from earlier this week when providers were prevented from preordering doses, White House officials told McClatchy.
Like the first version, this too is completely false – not because DeSantis is still “blocking” healthcare providers from ordering vaccine – but because he was never blocking them from doing so in the first place.
DeSantis’s communications team has been aggressively pushing back against the false story, but it hasn’t been easy. A number of news outlets, including Forbes and dozens of local television stations, ran segments repeating the completely made-up claims.
DeSantis’ Deputy Press Secretary, Bryan Griffin, issued a succinct rebuttal late Friday:
“It is patently false that Florida has ‘reversed course’ or changed its position in any way with regards to the COVID vaccine for children under 5. We have never held the position that the state would prohibit healthcare providers from ordering the vaccine. We have always maintained the position that the State of Florida has chosen not to be involved in the pre-ordering or distribution of the vaccine for children under 5. The State of Florida does not recommend the vaccine be administered to healthy children. Once again, many media outlets assume that government is the only means by which something happens in today’s society, and have convoluted a lack of state action or support with a ban or prohibition.”
Despite their best efforts, DeSantis and his press team will never be able to convince some that the media is straight-up lying to them. Expect to see these same headlines repeated on the campaign trail this summer, and perhaps, again, in 2024.