With booster doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines likely coming soon (Pfizer doses are already available), aides to Gov. Ron DeSantis aren’t saying whether the governor will take advantage.
“I do not have any details to share about the governor’s personal medical decisions. As the governor has said, each person should be able to make his or her own informed choices,” Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said via email last week in response to a question from the Phoenix.
DeSantis was more open about his plans last winter, when he was actively promoting the then-newly available vaccines and traveling the state opening vaccination clinics. Overall, 58.9 percent of Floridians are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to CDC data, above the national average of 57 percent. But several other states have higher vaccination rates, including New York and California.
DeSantis said in February that he would take the J&J shot when his age group became eligible and even teased that he might do it on camera but, amid growing skepticism about the vaccines among core Republican voters, in April did so privately. Under federal guidelines, he’ll be eligible for a J & J booster as soon as they become available.
Officially, the administration continues to encourage people to get vaccinated, but these days DeSantis spends more time fighting with the Biden administration, local governments, school boards, and private businesses over whether they can require proof of vaccination for workers and customers.
At times, DeSantis appeared to undermine confidence in vaccines — not least by elevating Joseph Ladapo — who has been openly skeptical of the federal public health response to the virus — to the office of surgeon general, running the Florida Department of Health.
“These vaccines have provided benefit to individuals to reduce severity of illness — less likely to hospitalize, less likely to die. I think the data’s very clear on that. However, the vaccines are not providing the type of public benefit in terms of stopping transmission that we had hoped,” DeSantis said recently.
To Democratic House co-leader Evan Jenne of Broward County, the governor’s combativeness reflects DeSantis’ appeal to base GOP voters (many of whom suffer a range of conspiracy theories including the Big Lie that Trump really won last year’s election. Note that Republican National Committee member Peter Feaman of Florida this summer called the vaccines “the mark of the Beast,” as CNN reported.)
“He needs to hold that base together — not only for 2022 and his reelection bid, not just then. He needs to hold them together for another two years after that when he runs for president,” Jenne said during a Zoom conference with reporters on Monday.
DeSantis disavows holding any ambitions beyond reelection but Jenne doesn’t buy it.
“It is what it is. When you’re the governor of Florida, not many of your constituents can be found in Salt Lake City,” Jenne said. He referred to a speech the governor gave there in July before the American Legislative Exchange Council, in which DeSantis mocked the CDC, according to a report in The Salt Lake City Tribune. The governor has made a series of out-of-state fundraising jaunts.
Monoclonal antibodies have proven an effective treatment for Covid if administered early, and DeSantis has been aggressively pitching them since August, opening clinics where the treatments are available free of charge. Additionally, Merck’s new Covid pill, molnupiravir, is awaiting regulatory approval.
Again, in launching the monoclonal campaign the governor appeared dismissive of additional U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
“The nonpharmaceutical interventions we’ve seen — remember, we were promised that they would end the pandemic — lockdowns, school closures, mandates — and it just hasn’t done that,” DeSantis said at the time.
The governor accuses President Biden of politicizing COVID.
“Don’t make the vaccine divisive!” he exclaimed during a news conference Friday in Naples.
“You are trying to take people’s jobs away over this issue! You are trying to plunge people into destitution! You are taking away their livelihoods. Nobody else is doing that,” he said of Biden.
Ladapo has disparaged the vaccines, too — especially the idea of mandating them.
“You exert pressure and people change behavior. That’s true for many different things,” the doctor said during a joint appearance with DeSantis.
“But mandates are really about, they’re about … who controls whose life, you know? They’re about whether kids belong to the parents or whether they’re instruments of the state in terms of some of these mandates related to masks.”
DeSantis argues that vaccine mandates don’t account for natural immunity acquired through surviving infection, including among first responders exposed on the job. Nationally, first responders appear more vaccine averse than the general public, according to a U.S. News and World Affairs report.
The CDC acknowledges that coronavirus variants can break through the vaccines’ protections but still recommends taking the shots, arguing that they provide more robust protection than natural immunity does.
The agency points to a study of previously infected people in Kentucky. Those not vaccinated had 2.34 times the odds of reinfection compared with those who were fully vaccinated. “If you have had Covid-19 before, please still get vaccinated,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
The Ivy League-educated governor keeps himself well informed about pandemic data, medical studies, and regulatory developments, according to spokeswoman Pushaw, and the Department of Health maintains a “vaccine locator” on its website. The state still dispatches mobile vaccine clinics around the state.
As for DeSantis’ own plans for a booster shot, Pushaw had this to say:
“Gov. DeSantis chose to get the Covid-19 vaccine several months ago, after his age group became eligible. As he has said, he made that choice because of evidence that getting vaccinated lowers an individual’s risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus.
“But the right choice for him, or even for most people, is not necessarily the right choice for everyone. COVID-19 vaccines should be available to all (well, all who are eligible under the FDA’s authorization) and mandated for none.”
–Michael Moline, Florida Phoenix
john goebel says
Well my question is how many people would be alive today if De Santis promoted the Vaccine a very simple answer more would be alive .
Michael & Diane Cocchiola says
D(i)eSantis appeals exclusively to his know-nothing base. He cares not a whit for the 57000+ COVID deaths in Florida. He has a lot of blood on his hands.
The only way Florida can fix its COVID problem is to fire D(i)eSantis and get recalcitrant anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers to comply with CDC and NIH guidelines. Screw your religious objections and your cries of freedom. This is a pandemic that has killed 700,000 Americans and over 4 million worldwide. Your conspiracy theories and your culture war end at my face.
Deborah Coffey says
Yes. Or, we could hold him accountable like the Brazilians are doing with Bolsonaro…charge him with crimes against humanity and put him in prison.
Common Sense says
I have not read this article and will not waste anymore of my time reading articles about DeSantis.
He is a indoctrinated disciple of the trump movement. The man has zero integrity or authenticity.
Ron DeSantis is giving us a picture of the near future of both parties.
The lack of integrity and authenticity is the cancer eating away at both political parties and any one in between.
Is there a way to stop this run away train ?
Not if all the genuine common sense Americans keep sitting on there hands. We are becoming the minority in the continually growing uneducated movement.
Wheres the Tylenol….
Well said. I worry about the future of Florida and the country.
So even though DeSantis’s spokesperson said ” he made that choice (about getting vaccinated) because of evidence that getting vaccinated lowers an individual’s risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus”, he thinks people should be able to choose between getting seriously ill and getting vaccinated. So his rational seems to me that he thinks it’s good to have the choice between greatly increasing your chances of not getting sick at all because you got a vaccine or getting seriously ill, which usually involves putting a whole lot of who knows what drugs in your system (including those monoclonal antibodies that he was touting), running up medical bills and possibly never fully recuperating, and. Sheesh….yeah, it’s great to have that kind of choice
Common Sense says
Agreed we should have the choice , but the only thing contributing to the continually rising medical costs from this “ pandemic” are the uninsured non-vaccinated. (Which no one is talking about)
Florida is in the top five for the most uninsured per capita in the country.
Who pays for their burden….
Yep you got it every one else doing the right thing.
Oh yea 131 million Americans take prescribed medication 66% of the population. Do you actually know what’s in those medication. Trust me if any of us new we wouldn’t take them.
The vaccine is like any other medication we all have to weigh the risk vs reward.
Wheres the Tylenol….
shy guy says
He should have been Bidens VP then would have two idiots running the country.