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Gov. DeSantis and Florida surgeon general warn against new COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine

FILE - Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by FOX News Channel, Aug. 23, 2023, in Milwaukee.
Morry Gash
FILE - Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by FOX News Channel, Aug. 23, 2023, in Milwaukee.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo reiterated their recommendations, Wednesday, urging residents not to get the new COVID-19 vaccine booster. Their guidance is in direct contradiction to guidance from federal health officials.

During a Wednesday Zoom call, livestreamed on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, DeSantis and Ladapo discussed the vaccine with a panel of physicians. They’re comments echo their message at a press conference last week in Jacksonville, that healthy children and adults under 65 should not receive the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that individuals six month or older should get the shot.

Last year, Ladapo's warnings against coronavirus vaccines for healthy children prompted a public letter from federal health agencies warning that his guidance on the pandemic is harmful to the public.

The letter, signed by U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf and then-CDC Director Rochelle Walensky stated, “It is the job of public health officials around the country to protect the lives of the populations they serve, particularly the vulnerable. Fueling vaccine hesitancy undermines this effort.”

The Sept. 6 press conference in Jacksonville came the same day DeSantis’ presidential campaign sent an e-mail to supporters promising to “fight back against every bogus attempt the Left makes to expand government control,” when it comes to pandemic recommendations and regulations.

Meanwhile, clinicians with Lee Health are continuing to follow CDC guidance on the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Lee Health is recommending what ACIP (CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices), or the folks that do make recommendations for all immunizations are recommending,” said System Medical Director for Infection Prevent for Lee Health, Mary Beth Saunders, DO.

“And so, we’re following those guidelines. Our clinicians follow those guidelines… They’ve also been adopted by the CDC and that’s for any vaccine: COVID, influenza, and now with recommendations for RSV.”

Saunders reminds that older people may be at higher risk for severe infection.

“Also, individuals who may be immune compromised for various reasons, whether they’ve had a history of cancer or they are undergoing cancer treatment, or they have immune-compromising conditions,” said Saunders.

“More and more, there are people who are on medications to help with diseases such as skin diseases or gastrointestinal disorders. They may be on medicines that effect their immune systems. And so those folks too, also need to be aware that they may be at greater risk for getting serious infection or serious complications from respiratory viral diseases.”

Saunders recommends people who are unsure about whether they should get the latest vaccine booster should consult their healthcare provider.

“Even though there is a lot of information on social media, that may not be the best guidance, right? We need to make our decisions based on the scientific facts and what is best for our own health. So, your healthcare provider is the best person to guide you in those decisions.”

DeSantis and Ladapo's COVID-19 vaccine opposition comes as Florida leads the nation in the number of COVID hospitalizations, according to the CDC.

Saunders said Lee Health has experienced that uptick.

“A few weeks ago, we did see an increase in the number of hospitalizations with COVID, but fortunately, that quickly has dwindled down. We’re not seeing as many cases in the hospital or even as many positive tests through our testing Centers, but that could change as we head in the holiday season,” said Saunders.

“And certainly during January and February, those are going to be our peak months for when we are seeing respiratory viral illnesses in our area.”

Saunders said impacts from Hurricane Idalia may have delayed delivery of the vaccine to Southwest Florida, but that Lee Health expects to have doses available for patients and staff sometime in October.

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you. The Florida News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report.