In a sharp escalation of Covid vaccine denialism by a sitting governor, Ron DeSantis on Tuesday called on the state Supreme Court to empanel a grand jury to investigate “any and all wrongdoing in Florida with respect to Covid-19 vaccines” and to “to bring legal accountability for those who committed misconduct.”
The 20-page petition is an indictment of the vaccine response to the pandemic, stopping just short of condemning vaccines while lambasting its purveyors, from pharmaceuticals to the Centers for Disease Control to the Biden administration but, notably, not former President Trump, one of whose more singular triumphs was Operation Warp Speed–getting the vaccine to market by the end of his tenure. Biden, Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to Biden and Trump, Pfizer and Moderna, two vaccine developers are mentioned a combined 54 times. Trump’s name is absent.
The petition relies on point-in-time quotes from politicians and the press, tweets and fleeting press releases, some of them from vaccine companies, rather than–with rare exceptions–on scientific evidence or peer-reviewed studies. The petition’s cherry-picked and decontextualized quotes as a result draw the picture of a pandemic whose science was as if settled from the start and its conclusions about vaccines unvarying, downplaying the dramatic effect of variants on the pandemic and of the rapid evolution of the scientific understanding of a new virus.
“This whole area has been fraught with controversy from the beginning, kind of above and beyond the scientific issues, because of the political environment we’re in,” Dr. Stephen Bickel, architect of Flagler County’s response to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, said today. “But there’s a tremendous amount of data supporting the usefulness of these vaccines. There are some minor differences of opinion about their uses in some of the least susceptible people for Covid. There is some genuine scientific controversy. But not in general on their effectiveness or their safety.” The entire process is researched, reviewed and analyzed by top epidemiologists in the world. “In terms of the use and efficacy of the vaccines, the evidence is overwhelming. It is more than we have for virtually any other therapeutics that we use.”
As with all vaccines, there are complications, even deaths from those complications, but the numbers are minute compared to the hundreds of millions of doses administered in the United States. And the claim that vaccine skepticism is warranted because vaccinated people are dying is not rationally defensible.
Bickel offered this analogy: “Let’s say 10 percent of population doesn’t wear seatbelts, and 90 percent does. Well, I bet that most people dying in car accidents are wearing seatbelts. So does that seatbelts don’t work?” According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 90 percent of vehicle riders wore seat belts in 2021, while the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car riders was reduced by 45 percent.
“The thing that a patient should want to know is, if I get this vaccine, what does it do to my chances of getting the infection at all or getting pretty sick with it or in the hospital or dying?” Bickel said. “What has been the case from the beginning is that the protection against dying is pretty good and stays there even if you don’t get a booster. It stays in the 70 to 90 percent range, the protection against the milder issues is less, and then variant dependent and time from vaccine dependent. But that’s like the highest bar for a vaccine is to prevent spread of infection or prevent any illness at all. And initially it looked like we were going to get that, and then we did, temporarily, before Delta came, and it was very exciting. Like, maybe we’re going to nip this in the bud. But the virus was more devious and clever than we suspected, and so it mutated.”
Analyses and responses changed apace. DeSantis’s petition largely does not take that unpredictable evolution into account, assessing the pandemic response as a more dogmatic, one-size fits all approach that–inaccurately–caused harms that the response sought to dissimulate. In that regard, the petition flirts with conspiracy theories masked in the language of rational analysis and buttressed by footnotes.
The petition footnotes its own claims with self-referential sources, such as using the DeSantis Administration’s own Department of Health’s press releases alleging a serious (rather than incidental and minor) link between Covid vaccines and myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, especially among younger people. The centerpiece of the petition’s claims about a higher death rate from cardiac arrest following Covid vaccination is a n unsourced, eight-page “analysis” published by the Department of Health that was never peer-reviewed and has been widely discredited.
“There’s a lot of talk about the myocarditis with the vaccine. Yes,” Bickel said. “What I would say is: shown me the data. From what I’m seeing, it’s not rare, but it’s also usually not serious, usually pretty mild. It’s not like it’s not an issue. But put it in proportion. And the myocarditis you get with Cocid is way more serious.” The two are equal neither in proportion nor in severity.
Not vaccinating children puts them at greater risk of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, “a rare but serious condition associated with COVID-19 in which different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs,” according to the CDC. Bickel points to figures up to May 2021, showing over 3,700 cases of MIS-C in the United States, and 35 deaths.
DeSantis, considered a likely front-runner for the Republican nomination to the presidency in 2024, typically seizes on certain issues that resonate with his hard-right base and burnish his credentials as their choice in primaries where the hard right dictates outcomes. The petition appears to be written more as a political document driven by ideological certainties rather than as a argument about science, where doubt and uncertainty are inherent. The “bottom line is that science is easy to challenge because uncertainty always exists and questioning extant knowledge is part of the research process,” an academic wrote in a paper on “The Crisis of Politicization Within and Beyond Science” three years before the pandemic.
DeSantis also announced that the state surgeon general, Joseph Ladapo, will lead a “surveillance study” of deaths in the wake of covid vaccinations. The governor is also establishing a “Public Health Integrity Committee” that will assess federal public health recommendations “to ensure that Florida’s public health policies are tailored for Florida’s communities and priorities.”
The seven-member panel includes Stanford University’s Jay Bhattacharya and former Harvard School of Medicine professor Martin Kuldorff, lead authors of the so-called Barrington Declaration (to which Ladapo was a signatory), which argued against Covid restrictions and for the pandemic to run its course, building herd immunity. Others include Tracy Beth Høeg, an epidemiologist at the state Department of Health who has questioned the Centers for Disease Control’s policies, Joseph Fraiman, who has opposed the Covid vaccination of children and falsely claimed that no healthy children have died of the disease, and so on.
Ladapo last fall issued a directive discouraging children and young people, up to age 39, from getting vaccinated. DeSantis and the Florida Department of Health appear to be taking an even more aggressive stance against vaccines in general. But vaccines are still being offered at local health departments.
“The Health Department in Flagler County continues to believe in the efficacy and safety of vaccines to prevent communicable disease, whether its measles that impacts young children, the flu, Hepatitis, HPV, COVID-19 and approximately 20 other harmful diseases,” Bob Snyder, who heads the Flagler Health Department, said today. “Vaccines are still accessible at all of our local pharmacies and the Health department. If someone wants a vaccine to protect themselves, loved ones and others, they are readily available here and elsewhere. We provide immunization services daily and encourage folks to call the Health department at 386-437-7350 to make an appointment.
Snyder said current reportable cases of Covid are averaging 15 a day, based primarily on reports from AdventHealth Palm Coast, long term care facilities and some physician offices. But the true prevalence of the virus is not known because most people now test themselves at home and don’t report the results. “We are seeing a slight uptick in cases reported and eight deaths associated with Covid have occurred during the last 30 days by someone with a Flagler County address and persons 65+ years of age,” Snyder said in an email. “Regarding the flu, statewide cases are decreasing and eight counties have recently experienced outbreaks,” none in Flagler. Still, for the week ending Dec. 10, there were 50 cases of the flu or flu like illnesses reported locally.
“The plurality of the medical community, including the best scientists, virologists, infection disease specialists and groups like the Academy of Pediatrics believe in the efficacy, quality and safety of vaccines to prevent hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID 19,” Snyder said.
Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president, was interviewed on CNN today in response to the latest DeSantis initiatives.
“I don’t have a clue what he’s asking for,” Fauci said. “We have a vaccine that unequivocally is highly effective and safe and has saved literally millions of lives.” He cited the new study by the Commonwealth Fund, the century-old health care foundation, calculating that in the United States alone, two years of Covid vaccines have saved over 3 million lives, prevented 18.6 million hospitalizations and 120 million infections, saving over $1 trillion in medical costs. “So what’s the problem with vaccines? I mean, vaccines are life-saving.”
Dave Spore, who works for the Florida House minority office, blasted the governor, according to the News Service of Florida. “Comparing a lifesaving vaccine to OxyContin, as DeSantis just did while announcing his latest political stunt, is unbelievably irresponsible. It’s also incredibly insensitive to the millions of Americans who’ve lost loved ones during the ongoing opioid epidemic & COVID pandemic,” Spore said in a tweet.
Ron DeSantis is a cold, calculating politician who wants to be president. He couldn’t care less about facts or anyone’s health. This is nothing but a naked play to the far-right wingnuts who fought and continue to fight against Covid vaccinations. And this guy wants to be president of the United States. He doesn’t have any plan to make life better for any American. This stunt clearly shows he has no concern for science in regards to solving problems. He’d fit perfectly in the time of witch hunts. But I hope he does run for president for two reasons: (1) He’ll likely push Trump off the national stage and (2) he will not stand up well to the bright lights of the national stage when he can’t hold press conferences with only loyal lapdogs in attendance. He’s a phony and another reason the Republican party has lost it’s way. What this does for the citizens of this state is way beyond my ability to comprehend.
So let’s hope this stunt will further motivate people to not get a vaccine that may very well save their life at a time the Covid virus is one the rise again. It’s amazing that a governor can do something this callous to further his own political ambitions. It’s a shame the people that get hurt the most are just blind to what he is doing.
Well said, he is a fraud if there ever there was one.
It sucks that there isn’t a decent news website in Palm Coast and most of the people that read it are too stupid to read things on their own and trust the first thing they read.
Follow the money… pfizer had over 22 BILLION in profit last year.
A simple fact.
Bill C says
What a stupid biased assumption, how do you know what people read? According to Kaiser Health News, Pfizer recorded $7.8 billion in U.S. revenue for its covid vaccine in 2021. Yes, it’s gouging, but probably you’re a free market advocate and would be against government “interference” in markets.
Bill C says
@ Dave When lawmakers created Medicare’s Part D outpatient prescription drug program in 2003, they barred Medicare from negotiating prices. Republicans controlled Congress at the time. Medicare Part D includes a “noninterference clause” that protects market competition and patient access by prohibiting the government from interfering in negotiations among insurers, drug manufacturers, and pharmacies. Follow the money to campaign contributions!
Nancy N. says
Be careful what you wish for with DeSantis. He’s just as extremist as Trump, but way smarter and much better at maneuvering the government machine. He’s 10x more dangerous than Trump because instead of flailing around having tantrums he’ll get the evil he wants to do done.
Joe D says
DeSantis IS 10x more dangerous than Donald Trump, because DeSantis is SMARTER, knows the laws (and ways to get around them secretly), and seems even more ruthless in punishing any public or governmental figure who disagrees with him
I do believe the latest stats show 56% of fatalities are vaccinated. Whoops, probably don’t fit this agenda here…
Might want to go back and brush up on those stats Lamo. I did see this morning though that Republicans died at a higher rate than Democrats so far from Covid-19, Republicans more likely not to be vaccinated.
Pat Stote says
Most unvaccinated people are Republicans.
Nancy N. says
Tell me you don’t understand statistics without telling me you don’t understand statistics….
That death percentage is completely meaningless without knowing a ton of other information, such as what percentage of the overall population is vaccinated. What percentage of vaccinated vs unvaccinated are getting sick, what percentage are progressing to serious disease? What precautions vs exposure risks do people have in each vaccination group? Also, statistics on WHO is vaccinated (are people with underlying conditions or who are older – more at risk of dying even when vaccinated – more likely to be vaccinated?) are highly relevant.
There’s so many factors and variables at play here that a single statistic can’t tell the story. But it makes a great talking point for Fox to shout at people they know don’t understand the concept of variables and probability.
Joe D says
As an RN with an MS degree as a Clinical Nurse Specialist and a Certification Nurse Case Manager at a leading East Coast University teaching hospital, you definitely need to verify what statistics you are comparing!
In the early days of Covid, I watch Ed my 24 bed Medical ICU ( turned COVID only unit along with 10 other units) , lose 1 patient every other day from Covid related complications. That SIGNIFICANTLY dropped after people began immunizing. If people DID get Covid after getting the vaccine, they didn’t require ICU treatment OR frequently didn’t need to be hospitalized AT ALL, because the symptoms post vaccine were mild. MOST of the ICU admissions and deaths after that ( unless you were immunocompromised or had SERIOUS other heath issues already), we’re NON-VACCINATED patients at almost an 85% level of hospital COVID deaths
Edith Campins says
Another waste of tax payer dollars. DeSantis is a typical Republican, repeat a lie enough times and someone will believe it.
Joe D says
Bravo! You just nailed the TRUMP ( and probably DeSantis) playbook!
Lies repeatedly enough until the lie itself supports your belief!
Sure, stamp out those terrible vaccines. Like the one that ended Polio. Desantis is probably responsible for tens of thousands of Floridian deaths. Telling other people to not wear masks at the same time he is vaccinating his kids and making them wear masks. God help us all if he ends up in the Whitehouse. You better hope your children aren’t gay.
This is why he got the nickname of DEATHSANTIS and it sure fits him well. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself. Donald taught him well how to lie and how to be selfish. They both deserve each other.
You are comparing COVID “vaccine” to Polio vaccine?
Polio was eradicated because of its vaccine and if you had the vaccine you didnt get polio.
Now do COVID…. I’ll wait…
Well, we have had the flu vaccine now for decades, and as good as it is in protecting the majority of those who get it each year from becoming sick, the flu – which is a virus just like covid, has never been eradicated and probably never will. That in no way diminishes the importance or efficacy of the vaccine in protecting people from serious illness. I have heard that somewhere around 50,000+ deaths occur each year due to the flu. Vaccines were developed to PROTECT people. Those who can get vaccinated or who can and should get their children vaccinated but don’t simply because of politics and the lies they seem to believe from those who are not experienced, medically trained, ethical professionals are making poor choices that could cost themselves or their loved ones to be hospitalized or worse. You need no more proof than watching the videos that were all over the news channels of ER doctors and nurses relating many stories of seriously ill covid patients in their hospitals about to die, saying they made a mistake not getting the vaccine and asking for it on their death bed when it was, by then, far too late to save them.
Go back and look into Polio history Dave, it took years until a vaccine was was available after being isolated in the 1940’s and Polio had been recognized for a couple hundred years before that. Even when the vaccine became available it took years before the numbers considerably dropped. So yes you’re going to wait a bit, enjoy.
You know, we haven’t had this kind of nonsense until Trump, and conspiracy pushers.
In elementary school, we all lined up to get the polio oral vaccine. It saved our country’s children from a cruel disease. Now, with such baloney mistrust fueled by Republican *leaders,* the covid vaccine is demonized, as is believing in our voting system. So, many people are needlessly dying or suffering from lingering effects from the virus.
Yes polio still exists in countries, such as Africa and Asia, that are lacking in vaccines. We are so fortunate to live in a country that has these vaccines available. I’m vaxed and happy about it. The nanobots didn’t get me, and I’m still in control of my own body. If you prefer to be vulnerable to these diseases, knock yourself out. Nature creates these viruses, and I see it (these days) as culling the herd.
Lets be clear. This is nothing more than a political stunt by DeSantis trying to appeal to the right wing fanatics in hopes of recruiting their support in 2024 when Trump finally falls out of favor. Unfortunately this is at incredible risk for those that could be sickened by the virus and die as a result of his propagating misinformation. I have been a nurse for over 40 years with the last 10 years in the (pharmaceutical and medical device) clinical trial industry working in quality and regulatory compliance. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence would know that the mRNA technology is revolutionary and has saved millions of lives. Serious side effects including death can occur with any drug. There are well defined protocols, assessments, and reporting in place. Unfortunately science, data, and facts are irrelevant when your primary goal is power at any expense. I am so grateful to have Dr. Bickel in Flagler County offering a beacon of hope in an otherwise potentially perilous situation being created by our Governor.
What Else Is New says
D has indeed created a conspiracy stunt. One wonders if there really are that many Trumpies who believe this nonsense, because D wants their vote. I resent having my taxes supporting D’s impotent reach for legitimacy via a suit filed with the Florida Supremes trying to prove COVID vaccines are dangerous. BTW. You can bet he has been vaccinated.
G A says
Once again republicans don’t get it. You know who has the highest death rate?? Unvaccinated Republicans. You know which states have the highest death rates? Red states. If you don’t believe it look it up. For God’s sake look things up!! Verify Verify Verify!!
83,201 Dead Floridians have been faking it this whole time…………I Knew it!
Thanks for the Info. Ronnie….. ( assuredly not Ronald Regan),
……….what a complete stooge!
I guess we should have listened to t-rump and injected bleach!! We get rid of one circus act and the circus is coming to town again. Deathsantis is just a mini t-rump!!!
This guy does not represent all Floridians.
He is out for himself and his small % base.
He was arrogant when he lived in our neighborhood and appears to be the same as FL Gov.
It amazes me how anyone could “trust” a politician over a medical doctor, who is an expert in infectious diseases! However, even Dr. Fauci is human and can make mistakes or misspeak. For example from the story: Fauci said. “We have a vaccine that unequivocally is highly effective and safe and has saved literally millions of lives.” “A vaccine” implies that there is just one COVID-19 vaccine. In fact there are four COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the USA. The two most prominent are the mRNA based Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. However, there are also the Novavax which is a protein subunit vaccine and Johnson & Johnson’s viral vector vaccine. The events now being reported out of China are an indication of how effective our vaccines are. Vaccines that were developed and funded as a result of the previous administration’s Operation Warp Speed.
There are published safety and efficacy studies for each vaccine. The studies are mostly boring and tedious to read. Very few lay people will bother or have the background to properly interpret the results. Instead, competent people rely on reputable medical experts who have the specialized training to understand the studies and their limitations. Dr. Fauci and the other experts at the CDC are the people who I trust to review the studies and to direct public policy.
I know people who are anti-vaccine. I occasionally play golf with a young fellow who didn’t get vaccinated against COVID and doesn’t get vaccinated against influenza. He and his wife got COVID last year. They were both quite sick. Shortly after recovery, his wife’s liver failed and she had to have a transplant. Coincidence, maybe, or maybe the result of COVID. Last week he couldn’t play golf; he had the flu. Meanwhile, I and my wife haven’t gotten COVID or the flu. This is a testimonial as to vaccine effectiveness. Testimonials are less trustworthy than actual medical studies, but when taken with a proverbial “grain of salt” can still be a useful source of information.
The worst source, medical or otherwise, is an overly ambitious politician.
Saw television ads when DeSantis supported covid vaccines for some reason now he feels to be against the vaccine he once supported. Now he is playing out of Trumps play book only in hopes to get votes if he runs for President.
It is pretty sad when a governor of a state doesn’t care if its citizens live or die. Think of that when he runs and who you pick to vote for. It sure isn’t going to be him.
Another DeSantis stunt –
A phony “Voter Integrity Task Force” to “find” a non-existent problem. (There has never been any evidence of widespread, systemic voter fraud shown in Florida – or anywhere else.)
Now, a phony search for vaccine “crimes”, led by a know-nothing state Surgeon General, and staffed by vaccine deniers.
Unfortunately, these stunts affect real people…DeSantis and his ilk are apparently seeking to reestablish themselves as the “Know Nothing” Party….no science, no data…nothing but political games for this fascist-wannabe.
Michael Cocchiola says
DeSantis clearly thinks that our deaths from COVID-19 will further burnish his reputation as a hard-line uber-conservative. You know… march over our cold bodies on his death march to the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential race.
Flagler Health Department and Flagler citizens… do not give any credibility to DeSantis or his dancing marionette, Ladabo. They will quite happily kill you and me to advance their crazed anti-vaccine agenda.
Meanwhile, let’s support our whacko President. You are a beauty.
Bill what are you thinking “…whacko President.”? Trump was not re-elected.
The story and Michael’s post have to do with DeSantis. Former President Trump’s administration created the successful Operation Warp Speed which helped fund and produce several of the vaccines. DeSantis was at one point so pro-vaccine that his political opponents (Democrats) accused him of pulling strings to get his supporters vaccinated first. Quite a flip flop by our governor.
Joe D says
And just wait until our illustrious Governor punishes the Flagler Health Department for PUBLICLY representing the TRUTH, based on SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE and DATA, and not political RHETORIC!
You might not see the Governor’s response right away, but give it a year and look back.
I still say that no-one can say it better than Bugs ….
“What a Maroon”
And that description also fits anyone who doesn’t see that this is just more free PR for der furher and tossing meat to the MAGAs.
Deborah Coffey says
MSNBC just showed 4 different videos of DeSantis pushing the glorious benefits of the vaccine (when it was Trump’s). So, this 180 degree turn is for politics only. I’m insulted. DeSantis thinks we’re stupid.
Look at the midterm election, Desantis won big. Why complain, people continue to vote for him. If he becomes another Hitler good for the Repubs and Fla. it might take a Hitler to open the eyes of these blind Republican voters. I’m glad they will get hurt from Desantis crazy decisions. Good job Desantis please continue to hurt your blind Republican base.
Private Witch-hunter says
The thing about witch hunts is you always find a witch.
Does anything useful come out of Tallahassee? We are paying for this stuff…
HsIsCovidVaccinated - GQP Hypocrite says
It’s really tiresome anymore. We all know DeSantis, his wife, his family were vaccinated. We know his kids have their standard vaccines for school. Why are Republicans so keen on going after the uneducated voter? Instead of humoring their wild fantasy’s about vaccinations, Fauci, and pizza parlors with hidden sex dungeons, why not educate them? The COVID vaccine saved my life, my partner’s, and the lives of all my family members. We have not lost a single person to this virus. Not one. I credit the vaccine. Why? I believe in science. I’ve had so many vaccines throughout my life and not a single one has ever done any harm. I’m not autistic. I don’t have mystery illnesses. I don’t have immune weakness. I’m a very healthy adult with not a single underlying condition or damage from any vaccine. I’m alive because of them.
It’s not hard to believe why people would be so keen to think a Fakebook meme was gospel or that LibsOfTikTok was a legitimate knowledge person (I swear I’ve seen the woman that runs that handle online in some “unflattering” videos, just saying as she has a very unique face). I digress – it’s easy to fool people by taping into their fears and insecurities. The voice of opposition, denialism, conspiracy, and fear lives in the minds of those that have no sense of self worth. This is why the Tea Party formed. QANON. All these, ahem, “freedom” party militia groups (which I will say kudos to those in Texas standing against the Freedom Militia, let’s just say 20 people that went there to protest another “yawn” drag event were outnumbered 5:1 by armed LGBTQ+ people and their supporters and there were more guns on the pro-drag side than on the other – not a surprise, we have guns, we just don’t fetishize them by compensating for others things that are lacking).
THERE ARE MORE OF US THEN THEM. Keep reminding them of that. This kind of insanity and hate and bigotry and anti-science and deprivation of rights will not stand. We outnumber them by a lot.
DeSantis is steering Florida towards an “Idiocracy”. Ever see the movie of the same name where the leader can’t understand why their crops won’t grow because they are watering them with gasoline, their logic is gasoline is a liquid just like water. Likewise, DeSantis has an irrational stance on science and vaccination.
Just like masks and vaccines, some girls will NOT sit out. They want to be ‘seen’ as kind, as going along, as not ‘rocking the boat’. Americans have been spoiled far too long with freedom. They take it for granted. They think it cannot be taken from them. Since my family escaped Communism, I’m a gal who thinks and acts differently. I don’t wear my mask because I do follow science. I will not be censored. I will live in reality and state that men cannot come into women’s sports and I will not call them a she when they are a he. This is not difficult for me. I am not here to be popular. I am here to be free. And I will continue to fight the Marxist ideologies taking hold in America whose sole purpose is to destroy it.