Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the state’s surgeon general are warning residents under age 65 against the new coronavirus booster, going against the advice of federal health officials who have recommended the shots.
In a call live-streamed on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, DeSantis and Surgeon General Joseph A. Ladapo repeated comments made in a live event last week in Jacksonville, Fla., and argued there isn’t enough evidence that the booster’s benefits outweigh any risks. “I will not stand by and let the FDA and CDC use healthy Floridians as guinea pigs for new booster shots that have not been proven to be safe or effective,” DeSantis said in a statement after the call with Ladapo and other doctors, which opened with the title “No way FDA.”
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved a reformulated coronavirus vaccine that targets an omicron subvariant and is cleared for everyone 6 months and older. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its advisers recommended the shots, manufactured by Moderna and by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.
The CDC recommends that everyone 5 and older receive a single dose of the updated vaccine, which is part of an arsenal of tools the government is using to counter an expected increase in covid-19, influenza and RSV as the weather turns cooler. Experts interviewed by The Washington Post said they would get the shot as soon as possible. Previously vaccinated children 6 months through 4 years should receive one or two doses of the updated Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Unvaccinated children in that age range should receive three doses of the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or two doses of the Moderna vaccine.
DeSantis praised President Donald Trump early in the pandemic for the speedy rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, but since then, the Republican, who is running against Trump for president in 2024, has repeatedly criticized the shots and countered federal guidance. A Post review of his positions on the vaccines showed a reversal that unfolded gradually since 2021. In December, he announced he was forming a state committee to counter federal health policy recommendations, implying officials have misled the public about the drugs’ efficacy. In May, he signed legislation prohibiting vaccine passports as well as mask requirements in Florida schools and businesses.
Asked about DeSantis’s vaccine guidance, a spokesperson referred to the governor’s statement on the discussion, which promised to fight “authoritarian policies” around covid. The state health department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.
Ladapo, a Harvard-trained physician and a professor of medicine at the University of Florida, has long expressed skepticism about coronavirus vaccines and has previously been criticized for relying upon flawed data in discouraging them. His previous warnings against the vaccines prompted a public letter from the FDA and CDC saying that his statements about vaccine risks were “incorrect, misleading and could be harmful to the American public.”
Florida leads the country in new covid hospitalizations, with 11.81 per 100,000 in the week ending Sept. 2, a 4.4 percent increase from the previous week.