September 24, 2023


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is advising people under the age of 65 against getting the new Covid-19 booster shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, contradicting federal health officials’ guidance.

DeSantis, a 2024 Republican presidential contender, said he won’t allow federal officials who green-lit the new boosters to “use healthy Floridians as guinea pigs for new booster shots that have not been proven to be safe or effective.”

The Florida governor’s comments are the latest escalation of his efforts to place his Covid-19 management at the forefront of his campaign. DeSantis in recent weeks has sharply criticized former President Donald Trump’s handling of the early months of the pandemic, arguing that Trump ceded control to Anthony Fauci, the long-time top federal infectious disease expert.

“Once again, Florida is the first state in the nation to stand up and provide guidance based on truth, not Washington edicts,” he said Wednesday.

Amid an uptick in coronavirus cases and an increase in hospitalizations late this summer, GOP presidential contenders have increasingly touted their opposition to new public safety efforts – seizing at times on limited, local mask mandates to warn against broader restrictions.

Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, claimed at a rally in South Dakota last week that Democrats are seeking to “restart the Covid hysteria” ahead of the 2024 election. He has pledged to cut federal funding for entities such as schools and airlines that mandate masks or vaccines.

DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo discussed the state’s guidance for the new boosters in an online roundtable Wednesday. Their guidance directly contradicts the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that everyone over the age of 6 months get one of the new boosters.

“What I have directed our department to do is to provide guidance that really recommends and advises against the use of the mRNA vaccines for anyone under 65,” Ladapo said during the roundtable.

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration gave the green light for new shots targeting circulating variants, like the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant of the coronavirus and other closely related strains. The CDC then signed off on the vaccines, which will be available this week.

“The public can be assured that these updated vaccines have met the agency’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality. We very much encourage those who are eligible to consider getting vaccinated,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said Monday.

At the beginning of Wednesday’s roundtable, DeSantis said, “You now have these new shots that are out. People have a lot of questions,” calling mRNA vaccines a “flashpoint in our society.”


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