FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – With sick kids back in school and the COVID-19 delta variant circulating, pressure is mounting on Pfizer to release a vaccine that’s safe for children under the age of 12.
In Broward County, many pediatricians at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital and parents are anxious to get kids vaccinated as soon as possible.
As parent Metin Ozcan sends his 2-year-old daughter to Montessori school, he and his wife worry about her catching COVID-19 from other kids.
“Every time she has a little fever, we have to go to the doctor, make sure it’s not COVID,” he says.
However, his daughter may be soon getting some protection.
By early next month, Pfizer expects to release clinical trial data on how well its COVID-19 vaccine works in children ages five to 11 years old.
Data on children as young as six months old should be available shortly after that.
“My wife and I, we both got our Pfizer vaccines and we’re happy with it,” he says. “If it becomes available, we definitely we will have our daughter also get vaccinated.”
At Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, there are 15 children infected with COVID.
With the surge of the Delta variant, COVID cases among kids in the United States jumped 240 percent in just the last six weeks.
“We have seen very, very sick patients,” says Dr. Hanadys Ale of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
To curb the spread of the virus, Broward County is offering a cash incentive to vaccinated employees.
Those who provide proof of vaccination within a 60-day period will get a $500 bonus, and those who don’t get vaccinated will have to pay a $20 insurance premium surcharge every two weeks and must submit to weekly COVID testing.
“If we still have a large percentage of our employees that remain unvaccinated, we will have to at least consider mandatory vaccinations,” says Broward County Mayor Steve Geller.
Employees who spoke to Local 10 say they are on board with the program, and they believe getting vaccinated is something they need to do to keep themselves safe along as others around them.
Geller says the county’s 60-day incentive program should start around Oct. 1.
From Broward County transit bus drivers to workers at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and employees with parks and recreation to employees at county hall in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, nearly 7,000 government workers are being encouraged — but not forced — to get vaccinated.
“We are going to try this first and see if this works,” says Geller.
Geller proposed the incentive program on Wednesday.
“People have to get vaccines when they go to school, it is just another medical thing you have to do to take care of yourself and take care of others,” says a Broward County employee.
It is still unclear how many Broward County employees are currently vaccinated.
“It cost the county money and I can understand why they want to cover their cost and the opportunity for the $500 is available to them” explains a county employee.
The incentive program is within Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive order, which bans businesses and communities from requiring proof of vaccination as a condition of employment. Entities could face stiff fines otherwise.