Gov. Ron DeSantis’ controversial pick to be the state’s top public health official has been confirmed by the Florida Senate.
Despite an impassioned speech from Sen. Tina Polksy Thursday the chamber voted 27-12 to confirm State Surgeon General and Department of Health Secretary Joseph Ladapo. The confirmation means that Ladapo can, at the pleasure of the Governor, continue to serve in the post.
Polsky, the only Senator to speak against Ladapo, reminded the chamber that last year he altered the findings of a state-produced study about COVID-19 vaccines to suggest some vaccines pose a significantly higher cardiac risk to young men.
The findings were criticized by professors at the University of Florida, where Ladapo also works, and the medical community at large. Ladapo’s findings were also contrary to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
“Let’s take our jobs as senators seriously. Because if we just blindly vote through this man, we are saying it’s OK to lie on scientific studies that will potentially determine the outcome of someone’s life,” Polsky said.
Polsky also noted the number of children opting out of mandatory school vaccines has dropped during Ladapo’s tenure.
“So, this isn’t about how you feel about COVID. This isn’t about how you feel about masks. This isn’t about how you feel about me. This isn’t about how you feel about the vaccines — the COVID vaccine or any other vaccine,” Polsky said. “This is about how you feel about scientific integrity and what the role is of the top doctor of our state.”
Staunchly anti-vaccine, Ladapo made national headlines after Florida Politics reported he refused to comply with Polsky’s request that he wear a mask while visiting her in her Senate office. Polsky, who was being treated for breast cancer at the time, told Ladapo she was sick and asked him and his staff to wear a mask while in her office. When he refused to comply, Polsky told Ladapo and his staff they had to leave.
Ladapo was one of 16 department secretaries or agency heads confirmed by the Senate Thursday. The chamber also voted 36-3 to confirm Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Jason Weida and voted 33-6 to confirm Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue.
A complete list of confirmations is here.