Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted his record on vaccinations, saying his administration has worked tirelessly to promote inoculation.
Dr. Ken Scheppke, who represents the Florida Department of Emergency Management at most of these briefings of late, offered a qualified endorsement of vaccinations to the vaccine-hesitant Thursday in comments made at another monoclonal therapy site opening in Immokalee.
“So for the vaccines, I know a number of folks wanted to wait and see extra safety data, especially some of the pregnant women, that’s quite understandable,” Scheppke said.
“I’m hoping now that folks will be a little reassured that we got full FDA approval now on the Pfizer vaccine. And now thanks to some recent safety data on pregnant women, the American College of Obstretrics and Gynecology and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine have both come out advising pregnant women to go ahead and get that vaccine,” Scheppke said. “So if you haven’t looked at that recently, and you haven’t been vaccinated, I encourage you to go ahead and look at that and see if that might encourage you to get the vaccine.”
Scheppke noted that the vaccine takes up to six weeks to offer protection, as he launched into an ebullient pitch for the monoclonal treatments.
“Early is better than later,” the FDEM doctor said.
DeSantis went on from there to address vaccines, but as has been the case, the qualifying comments were more apparent than any sort of unbridled enthusiasm.
DeSantis prioritized nursing home vaccinations earlier in the pandemic, but noted that “we’ve had more nursing homes cases” of late in urging monoclonal treatment.
“Our nursing home residents are almost all vaccinated,” DeSantis said, “but you still have breakthrough cases.”
“The vaccine may help them, but it may not be providing them 100% protection,” he added.
DeSantis justified his opposition to vaccine passports.
“We went into nursing homes with vaccines and we had strike teams prior to CVS and Walgreens being able to do it,” DeSantis said, saying the goal was to “liberate them to have a more normal existence.”
“There were some who just didn’t want to take it. That was their decision,” DeSantis said.
“You shouldn’t be penalized and not be able to participate in society because you’ve made a choice. People have recovered from COVID and do have immunity and that’s not recognized when you talk about doing these mandates,” DeSantis said. “It’s very unscientific.”
DeSantis has pushed monoclonal antibody treatments frequently in recent weeks as Regeneron antibody clinics have opened statewide. As vaccines were rolled out, the Governor took a “Seniors First” approach to vaccination.
He has emphatically defended the state’s record on vaccinations.
“Since December, there hasn’t been an issue we’ve devoted more time to than administering vaccines,” DeSantis noted, including his appearance at 50 public events.
In Immokalee, though, he noted the vaccines haven’t gotten the job done.
“The hope was maybe this thing would fade into the background at some point, but you see that even with massive numbers of people vaccinated, you know, you still have prevalence, you still see it spreading,” DeSantis said. “You just have to understand. It’s going to be part of life.”
Breakthrough cases? “They’re really not that rare,” DeSantis said.
Meanwhile, critiques abound that DeSantis hasn’t messaged about the need for shots to the young, including from a former leader of the Senate Democrats.
“No information to us about getting vaccinated, doing masks, protecting your children, and your young people largely. Talking to younger people about the need to get vaccinated as they continue to die in hospitals,” Sen. Audrey Gibson said, standing by U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, her preferred candidate for Governor, in Jacksonville Thursday.