‘We are not anti-vaccine, we are anti-mandate’: Mandate critics defend vax stance, Ron DeSantis
Image via AP.

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'We've got to stop bossing people around. We've got to stop the coercion.'

Gov. Ron DeSantis and those speaking against vaccine mandates say their opposition isn’t anti-vaccine

DeSantis and legislative leaders on Monday unveiled their outline for next week’s Special Session. There are no details yet on the bills, but they are aimed at thwarting vaccine mandates imposed by public and private employers and related issues.

“This is going to save the day for a lot of workers,” DeSantis told reporters in Zephyrhills.

The Governor has been criticized for hosting press conferences with people stating vaccine misinformation. He has also been called anti-vaccine and anti-mask, but the Governor says he is trying to protect the freedom of personal choice.

“We’ve got to stop bossing people around. We’ve got to stop the coercion. We’ve got to stop trying to browbeat people,” DeSantis said.

Lisa Williams, a Tampa-based flight attendant for United Airlines with 31 years of experience, is part of a group of more than 2,000 employees, called “Airline Employees for Health Freedom,” suing the airline for forcing them to get the shot or face unpaid leave. DeSantis has the group’s full support, she relayed.

“We are not anti-vaccine. We are anti-mandate,” Williams said.

Williams said she “caved” and got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after missing the deadline to declare a faith-based exemption to the airline’s rule. However, she said she was rushed to the hospital because of her adverse reaction and nearly lost her life.

Williams’ side effects still linger and she suffers from chronic pain. However, the airline won’t give her compensation for its role in getting the shot.

“That was the single worst decision of my life,” Williams said. “I violated my faith because my employer made me choose between my God and my job, a decision that nearly cost me my life.”

“A booster would most likely kill me,” she added.

Axl David, who has worked for the Red Cross for more than five years and has recovered from COVID-19, said he decided he poses a low risk to himself and others after discussing the vaccine with a doctor and has not been vaccinated.

“A lot of people might want to paint people like me as anti-vax. That’s not what this is about,” David said, noting that he helped his grandmother get vaccinated.

“My opposition to this is the unconstitutional and illegal mandate from the Biden regime,” he continued.

Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls joined the Governor and those opposing the federal mandate.

Simpson praised DeSantis and said the Sunshine State would stand up for the rights of all workers.

“Florida is the shining state on the hill that we always talk about,” Simpson said.

President Joe Biden‘s administration is using the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enforce the mandate on businesses with 100 or more employees, which requires workers be vaccinated or face weekly testing. Sprowls highlighted a legislative proposal for the Special Session for Florida to develop a workplace regulatory agency that is separate from OSHA.

“If the Department of Labor and OSHA is going to be weaponized as a way to hold hostage businesses throughout the state of Florida, no problem. We want a different plan. We want out of OSHA,” Sprowls said. “We’ll submit our own regulatory authority and say goodbye to the federal government.”

On Thursday, DeSantis announced Florida would sue the Biden administration over its vaccine requirements.

After calling the vaccine mandate an emergency, federal officials won’t start requiring private employees finish their COVID-19 vaccination series — their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or single dose of Johnson & Johnson — until Jan. 4. DeSantis characterized that as an attempt to prevent the rules from exacerbating the national labor shortage during the Christmas season.

“This whole thing really stinks to high heaven,” DeSantis said.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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