Law enforcement officers and firefighters risked their lives to protect the community, Gov. Ron DeSantis said in opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates Thursday.
While President Joe Biden‘s administration has made a push for vaccine mandates, including requiring them for large businesses, the Governor has been a foil to the President, opposing mandates at every turn. He has also tried to prevent local governments from requiring vaccinations for employees, including first responders.
“I am offended that like, a police officer could potentially lose their job,” DeSantis said, extending that concern to firefighters. “They were not given the ability to work from home. They didn’t get to Zoom in to protect us. Ain’t gonna work to protect the public on Zoom.”
The Governor has vowed to challenge the federal government’s authority to place vaccine requirements on businesses through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Health, under Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, has levied $3.6 million in fines on Leon County for mandating vaccines and firing people who failed to meet the requirement. The county is the first local government the state has punished. Gainesville backed down on its proposed mandate after threats from the DeSantis administration.
Ladapo says it’s a “philosophical question” whether to mandate vaccines. The Governor’s new Surgeon General falls squarely in DeSantis’ camp opposing requirements.
“The piece that I would say that is scientific is that when you make it hard for people to avoid something, then they tend not to avoid it, so yes, you exert pressure, and people change behavior. That’s true for many different things,” Ladapo said. “But mandates are really about autonomy, they’re about who controls whose life, they’re about whether kids belong to the parents or whether they’re instruments of the state in terms of some of these mandates related to masks.”
DeSantis noted the vaccine provides strong protection against hospitalization and death. However, he cited a July study from Israel saying the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy rate, the rate at which it stops breakthrough cases, has fallen to 39%. White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci has cited that evidence to support the need for a third dose.
But DeSantis used the study to criticize strict public health policies. Vaccine passports don’t guarantee a disease-free environment, he said.
The Governor has criticized the federal government for not including prior infection in its vaccine mandate rules.
“A lot of these folks who are in a position where they don’t want to submit, don’t want to be coerced, they actually have natural immunity,” DeSantis said. “Many, many of the frontline workers have had this over the past year and a half, and so scientifically, why would you mandate somebody that already has a pretty darn good degree of protection?”
“I do not want to see people cast aside based off some over-broad, very harsh mandate,” he added.”