Gov. DeSantis Embraces More Radical Stance on COVID Vaccines | Miami New Times


DeSantis Stays Mum on COVID Booster Despite Trump's "Gutless" Comment

DeSantis has adopted an outright belligerence toward public health agencies' vaccine recommendations.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has become a leading critic of the COVID vaccine; he's also gone mum about his vaccination status.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has become a leading critic of the COVID vaccine; he's also gone mum about his vaccination status. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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During a 2021 interview with Fox News, when host Maria Bartiromo asked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis whether he had received his COVID-19 booster shot, he carefully tiptoed around the question.

"So, uh, I've done whatever I did, the normal shot," DeSantis told Bartiromo. "And that, at the end of the day, is people's individual decisions about what they want to do."

When COVID vaccines first rolled out, the governor seemed to openly back the jab — pushing the "seniors first" strategy, announcing that he got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and even declaring that the shots were "saving lives." But in the years since, as he became a leading vaccine critic and threw his hat in the ring for the Republican presidential nomination, he's gone mum about his vaccination status. His secrecy has prompted questions, and some scrutiny, with Donald Trump calling politicians "gutless" for not revealing their booster status, a not-so-veiled reference to DeSantis.

"You gotta say it, whether you had it or not," Trump said of the vaccine.

So Florida's governor got the "normal" shot (whatever that means). But what about the booster?

New Times asked DeSantis' office, which once again declined to answer the question.

"We are not going to discuss the governor’s private medical information," spokesperson Jeremy Redfern asserted via email. "There is a reason he proposed and signed the strongest medical freedom legislation in the nation."

More than two years ago, DeSantis banned so-called "vaccine passports" at Florida businesses, among other executive orders tamping down on COVID restrictions.

In May, DeSantis signed a bill that prohibits businesses and government agencies from requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The bill also barred employers from firing and refusing to hire workers on the basis of vaccination status.

The governor's stance on vaccination has gone from an initial position espousing personal freedom to an outright belligerence toward the idea of booster shots. In recent months, he promoted the concept that COVID public health restrictions were a step toward "medical authoritarianism."

This week, he professed that he would "not stand by and let the FDA and CDC use healthy Floridians as guinea pigs for new booster shots."

Though the circulating strains of COVID are not as deadly as the pathogen once was — thanks in part to vaccination and exposure immunity — the virus still kills thousands of people per month in the United States. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID has killed more than 40,000 people in 2023.

"Thankfully, we’re in a different place with COVID-19 now than we were at the beginning of the pandemic, but COVID-19 is here to stay," the CDC said. "It continues to be a major cause of serious respiratory illnesses in the United States, with more than 200,000 deaths (including more than 600 in children and adolescents 0-19 years old) reported since January 2022."

The governor's refusal to discuss his booster vaccination status comes as his administration, including Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, carries on with a campaign of promoting vaccine skepticism.

Against federal recommendations, DeSantis' administration recently advised Florida residents under age 65 not to get new COVID boosters from Pfizer and Moderna. The advisory ignores a recent recommendation from the CDC, which states that anyone who is 6 months and older and hasn't received a COVID shot within the last two months should get a new booster targeting the latest virus subvariant.
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