TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s controversial surgeon general announced Monday that the state is breaking with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and will be the first state in the nation to recommend against giving the Covid-19 vaccines to kids ages 5 and older.
Florida Surgeon General Joseph A. Ladapo, speaking at a roundtable Monday with Gov. Ron DeSantis and medical professionals who oppose much of the CDC’s recommendations, did not elaborate. Two others who participated in the discussion were Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford University professor of medicine, and biostatistician Martin Kuldorff. Both were the chief signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration, which calls for a hands-off approach toward managing the pandemic and instead advocates for natural “herd immunity.”
Ladapo in particular has been an outspoken critic of pandemic-era safety measures such as quarantines, wearing face masks and vaccines. DeSantis picked Ladapo to become surgeon general in September, which was three months after the surgeon general petitioned the CDC to withhold giving final authorization to the vaccines without years of clinical studies and trials in June.
Florida Department of Health spokesperson Jeremy Redfern said Ladapo was not immediately available to answer questions.
More than 15 million people in Florida have become vaccinated against Covid-19 since the first doses arrived in December 2020. Even DeSantis, at one point, promoted the vaccine as a way to slow the spread of the virus, which has killed roughly 71,000 people in the state since the first infections were reported two years ago.
On Monday, another grim milestone was reported: More than 6 million people worldwide have died from Covid-19.
DeSantis’ public support for the vaccine faded over the summer as the deadly Delta variant swept through Florida and the nation, leading to overcrowded hospitals and killing more than 10,000 people in the state alone in just a few months. Rather than pushing vaccinations, DeSantis focused for weeks on treatments like monoclonal antibody cocktails for people already infected by the virus.
DeSantis has also led very high-profile fights against the Biden administration over mandating vaccines for health workers and large businesses. Over the fall, DeSantis pressed Florida lawmakers to hold a special legislative session to enact rules prohibiting such requirements.
DeSantis’ approach to the pandemic has the support of Ladapo, and both agree that healthy children are the least likely to face consequences from infection.