Contradicting federal health officials, Florida Gov. DeSantis recommends against new COVID booster

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s top health department official are directly contradicting federal health recommendations and warning residents against getting a new COVID-19 booster, saying there’s not enough evidence it provides benefits that outweigh risks.

DeSantis, who is running for president, and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo discussed the vaccine with doctors Wednesday on a Zoom call livestreamed on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. It repeated much of what they said a week ago during a live event in Jacksonville, in which they warned against the vaccine that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended this week.

Ladapo’s previous warnings against COVID-19 vaccines prompted a public letter from federal health agencies saying his claims were harmful to the public.

“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,” said the letter signed by the FDA and CDC. Florida has one of the highest senior citizen population in the U.S.

Ladapo received his medical degree and a Ph.D. in health policy from Harvard University. He was a doctor and health policy researcher at UCLA when DeSantis appointed him in September 2021. He since has attracted national scrutiny over his close alignment with the governor in opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other health policies embraced by the federal government.

In his two years in Florida, Democrats have criticized his guidance on COVID-19, including his refusal to say whether he received a vaccine. At the height of the pandemic, Ladapo refused to wear a mask during a meeting with a Democratic senator who was undergoing cancer treatment. Senate Democrats later stormed out of a confirmation hearing after accusing Ladapo of being evasive.

DeSantis said Wednesday that COVID-19 measures have become a flashpoint in society and his state has taken a different approach. ___

This story has been corrected to show that the CDC recommended the vaccines, it did not approve them.