Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
A bill that would crack down on COVID-19 vaccine fraud cleared its first committee stop last week; now it has the support of AARP Florida.
The bill (HB 9), filed by Rep. Ardian Zika, would increase penalties for vaccine-related fraud schemes, which have been on the rise in the weeks since the FDA approved the first coronavirus vaccines.
“After a year of uncertainty and mounting isolation, older Floridians are more vulnerable than ever. Many view the vaccine as the key to relief. Florida ranks second in the nation for fraud, and House Bill 9 is a step in the right direction, allowing our state to take swift action to stop and prosecute scammers looking to take advantage of others during a pandemic,” AARP FL state director Jeff Johnson said.
AARP Florida noted that while some vaccine schemes qualify as fraud under current statute, some don’t, which makes stopping them difficult.
HB 9 would cast a wider net to catch schemers — the bill would make it a third-degree felony to spread false or misleading advertisements about vaccine access or availability via the internet, phone, email, or text message.
The bill applies to the coronavirus vaccine as well as “a vaccine for any other pandemic disease.”
It would also give the Attorney General the ability to institute a civil action in response to a violation or prevent a violation of the anti-fraud law. The actions could include “a permanent or temporary injunction, a restraining order, or any other appropriate order.”
— 1,560,015 FL residents (+9,571 since Monday)
— 29,082 Non-FL residents (+245 since Monday)
— 13,018 Travel related
— 582,551 Contact with a confirmed case
— 17,669 Both
— 946,777 Under investigation
— 68,478 in FL
— 24,820 in FL
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