Florida’s surgeon general urged residents under 65 not to get the Covid-19 booster, ignoring guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the state, which has defied pandemic health directives before, is leading the United States in Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
Joseph Ladapo, Florida’s surgeon general, said Wednesday he directed his department to advise against the use of Covid-19 boosters, stating “virtually every walking human being” has some degree of immunity and questioning the safety of the vaccines.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) blasted the CDC guidance, stating he would not allow “healthy Floridians as guinea pigs for new booster shots that have not been proven to be safe or effective.”
Florida’s defiance came one day after the CDC urged everyone 6 months and older to get the updated Covid-19 booster this fall, citing an uptick in cases nationwide.
The updated boosters, which target the currently dominant variants, were developed by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech and were approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday.
Florida recorded 116 deaths from Covid-19 in the past week, the most in the nation, the third most per 100,000 people, and more than 14% of the country’s total Covid-19 deaths.
The state also logged 504 Covid-19 hospitalizations in the past week, again the most in the nation and more than 11% of the total hospital admissions in the United States, with about 70% reportedly consisting of people 65 and older.
Florida has had more Covid-19 deaths over the past three months than any other state, with 1,106—ahead of California, which has had 843.
Mandy Cohen, director of the CDC, slammed Florida’s guidance as “dangerous,” stating the vaccines are “proven safe; they are effective, and they have been thoroughly and independently reviewed by the FDA and CDC.”
DeSantis is one of several Republican presidential contenders warning against the updated booster and stoking fears of looming mask mandates (which there is no evidence will return at the state or federal level). Former President Donald Trump alleged the “radical Democrats are trying hard to restart Covid hysteria” at a campaign rally in Rapid City, South Dakota . Sen. Tim Scott accused the “radical Left” of trying to bring back school closures and mask mandates—though few school districts briefly moved to online learning to fend off Covid-19 infections in August, there is no evidence widespread school closures are coming.
DeSantis quickly evolved from implementing typical Covid-19 prevention measures in the early days of the pandemic to reopening Florida by May 2020—and since then, he’s become a vocal mask and vaccine skeptic, questioning the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines and resisting federal health guidances. In September 2021, he appointed Lapado, a vaccine skeptic, as surgeon general. Reports in April indicated Lapado had personally altered data from a state Covid-19 vaccine study to suggest some doses pose a higher risk for young men. In June 2022, DeSantis refused to preorder vaccines for children under 5, making Florida the only state not to do so, claiming the “risks outweigh the benefits” of receiving vaccines. He proposed banning Covid-19 mandates in Florida in January. DeSantis has frequently touted his state’s Covid-19 response on the campaign trail and criticized Trump for following guidance from health officials and former White House medical advisor Anthony Fauci.
As Covid-19 and vaccines continue to be rife with political division, studies have indicated people living in counties that voted Republican in 2020 fared worse than those that voted Democrat. Counties where 70% or more of residents voted Republican had nearly 73 more Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 people through October 2021 than counties that largely voted Democrat, according to a study published in Health Affairs. Fewer deaths were likely associated with more proactive measures and better compliance with mask mandates and vaccination, said senior author Dylan Roby, an associate professor of health, society and behavior at the University of California.
81,607. That’s how many Floridians have died from Covid-19, the third most in the nation, just behind California and Texas. Florida has also had the third most Covid-19 cases in the United States with 7,572,282, again behind California and Texas. It has had the eighth most total cases per 100,000 people.
DeSantis administration advises against Covid shots for Florida residents under 65 (NBC News)
Covid Hero or ‘Lockdown Ron’? DeSantis and Trump Renew Pandemic Politics (New York Times)
How Ron DeSantis transformed into an anti-public health crusader (Vox)