Joe Gruters wants forced vaccinations out of Florida law

Florida's top health officer now could force a person who poses a public health risk to get a shot.

In the midst of an emergency, Florida’s Department of Health can mandate citizens receive vaccines. Sen. Joe Gruters wants that ability taken away.

The Sarasota Republican on Tuesday filed legislation (SB 734) removing any language about vaccines or vaccinations from powers in a public health emergency. It’s an identical bill to House legislation (HB 6009) filed in August by Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, that still awaits an agenda in the House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee.

Florida law today allows broad powers to demand citizens receive medical attention during a pandemic. That includes “ordering an individual to be examined, tested, vaccinated, treated, isolated, or quarantined for communicable diseases that have significant morbidity or mortality and present a severe danger to public health. Individuals who are unable or unwilling to be examined, tested, vaccinated, or treated for reasons of health, religion, or conscience may be subjected to isolation or quarantine.”

The law goes on to say any individual who “poses a danger to the public health” may be forced by the state’s health officer to use “any means necessary to vaccinate or treat the individual” if they do not submit to actions.

Gruters’ bill only impacts the ability to require individuals to receive vaccinations. The only change to the relevant statute, at least as the bill is written today, is to remove five mentions of vaccines.

It’s hard to imagine Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who won’t reveal his own vaccine status in the midst of a global pandemic, would utilize those powers under current law. The first notable action Ladapo took after being appointed Surgeon General earlier this year was to drop quarantining requirements for students exposed to COVID-19.

Gruters did not return calls for comment about the new bill. In the past, he filed legislation to prohibit businesses from discriminating against individuals based on their COVID-19 vaccine status. The bill died in committee last year, but provisions mirrored those in a statewide ban on vaccine passports passed into law.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


  • Jest Terrible

    November 3, 2021 at 6:48 pm

    Don’t force people to get vaccinated, letting republicans choose for themselves has been great for demographics, red states are turning purple and blue because of COVID.

  • ScienceBLVR

    November 3, 2021 at 8:32 pm

    The Joes Show- Ladapo and Gruters with a whiff of Sabatini Ugh! And a special session to hash it all out to boot! How bout a session to deal with real Florida issues? Affordable housing, elder care, education, protection of coastal habitats and homes, health care for everyone.. I’ve yet to hear any of these public servants talk about helping the public ..

    • Jerry

      November 5, 2021 at 12:13 am

      Because we are too busy trying to stop you from turning this country into an Orwellian nightmare.

      Forced injections of a vaccine that isn’t even a year old and doesn’t stop the spread of a virus 99% of us would survive? Insane! You are going to divide this country and crash the economy because of that vaccine?

      Every law, every policy, every idea you liberals present is designed to expand government and reduce our freedoms. Every single one! When was the last time the Democratic party expanded individual freedoms? Liberals used to be the guardians of free speech and free expression. They aren’t anymore. Today, liberals are power mad. They want to censor the internet, censor the media, and punish people for speaking up. They view parents as domestic terrorists if they speak up at school board meetings. And liberals can’t stop talking about race. Race, race, race, race. The Dems got swept in Virginia. And what was the first thing they blamed? White supremacy. They didn’t blame the sagging economy and rising inflation. They didn’t blame COVID-19. They didn’t blame Biden’s disastrous presidency so far. They blamed white supremacy. That shows you how out of touch that party is.

      • Alex

        November 5, 2021 at 6:24 pm

        Jerry our resident anti-vaxxer has spoken.

        …pure nonsense based on imaginary evidence and paranoia that everyone is out to get him for some reason he can’t explain.

        When in fact he’s just another schmo.

  • Alex

    November 4, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    Stupid idea.

    There’s a number of diseases out there (and many more can evolve anytime) that are far more contagious than covid, and kill most of them, much quicker.

  • Eddie

    November 7, 2021 at 9:24 am

    If only we had such courageous politicians like Gruthers and Sabatini in office in the 1950s. They could have stopped the mandates on the polio vaccine and made it optional. So much freedom was lost in the 50s when they mandated the polio vaccine and gave it out in schools. Just think you could be free today to contract polio and it would still be ravaging the world. I mean come on, we had the iron lung to put people into for polio treatment so why not let everyone choose if they wanted to be vaccinated for polio or they could just live in an iron lung. By golly let’s make iron lungs great again!! SMDH

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