Thursday, February 2, 2023

DeSantis forms panel to counter CDC, a move decried by health professionals

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that he is forming a new state committee to challenge policy recommendations from federal health agencies — a decision that medical professionals said will further politicize medicine in the Sunshine State.

At a news conference in South Florida, DeSantis also said he is seeking a statewide grand jury investigation into alleged “crimes and wrongdoing” related to the coronavirus vaccine. He gave few details on what specifically he wants a panel to investigate, but in a press release, his office noted side effects such as myocarditis, a type of inflammation of the heart, have been seen in rare cases.

“In Florida, you know, it’s against the law to deceive and misrepresent, especially when you’re talking about the efficacy of a drug,” DeSantis said.

Lisa Gwynn, past president of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said she and her colleagues were “surprised” by the announcement that DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo are forming a public health policy committee to reviewed what experts at the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend.

“This is just another example of the politicization of health care,” said Gwynn, a pediatrician with the University of Miami Health System. “I really don’t see where they’re going with it.”

The governor is widely considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate and has made resistance to vaccine and mask requirements a central part of his platform to “keep Florida free.” He has sued the Biden administration over vaccination requirements for federal employees.

DeSantis made the announcements during a panel discussion featuring coronavirus vaccine skeptics. Among the speakers were doctors and researchers who had signed the Great Barrington Declaration, a statement issued in 2020 that advocated against Covid restrictions and in support of herd immunity. The statement is not a scientific paperand critics have pointed out that it does not present data.

The governor said the new public health committee will be chaired by Ladapo, who has recommended against vaccinating children for Covid and has questioned the efficacy of vaccines for anyone but the elderly.

DeSantis’ press office accused pharmaceutical companies and the Biden administration of pushing the rollout of mRNA vaccines “through relentless propaganda while ignoring negative real-life events.” Ladapo echoed that criticism and said the state would work with the University of Florida to study autopsy results in cases of “sudden deaths of individuals who received the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida.”

“It’s a question that I’m sure keeps the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna up late at night, hoping no one ever looks at it,” Ladapo said. “We’ll look here in Florida.”

Large-scale observational studies of hundreds of millions of vaccine recipients have shown that while heart inflammation may be a rare side effect of messenger RNA vaccines that disproportionately affect young people, with a small number of deaths in that age group, the protective effects of vaccines in preventing severe Covid outweigh those risks, experts at the American College of Cardiology concluded.

Gwynn was removed from the Healthy Kids board of directors in June after she criticized the state’s decision to delay access to the coronavirus vaccine for children under 5. She said a vaccine grand jury has no merit.

“We know that vaccines save lives. The data is very clear. Those of us in the scientific community are outraged by this,” Gwynn said. “It’s definitely eroding confidence in public health policies.”

In a statement, Pfizer spokeswoman Sharon J. Castillo said mRNA vaccines against Covid “have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, tens of billions of dollars in health care costs and enabled people around the world to lead their lives more freely.”



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