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Florida's New Surgeon General Says Vaccinations Are A Choice

A school zone in Tallahassee
file photo
WFSU Public Media
A school zone in Tallahassee

Florida’s new surgeon general says the state shouldn’t be making public health decisions out of fear, and that vaccination mandates are not the answer to the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Joseph Ladapo says vaccination should be a choice.

“The state should be promoting good health,” Ladapo told reporters at his first press conference Tuesday. “Vaccination is not the only path to that. It has been treated almost as a religion. That is just senseless. There are lots of good pathways to health, and vaccination is not the only one.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Ladapo appointment following a meeting of the Florida cabinet. Ladapo is replacing Dr. Scott Rivkees, whose last day was Monday. Rivkees has not been seen or heard from publicly since the early days of the pandemic.

Ladapo was also critical of school closures and quarantines, saying “we’ve just brazenly pulled children who need the structure of school and routine in their lives, out of school. And we’ve done that… it's terrible to do it for all kids, but we’ve also done it for kids with disabilities, and people have hardly batted an eye.”  

Ladapo’s publicly stated positions are similar to those of DeSantis and his informal advisor, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya. Both Ladapo and Bhattacharya are signatories to a document called the Great Barrington Declaration which rejects most of the current COVI-19 mitigation policies and calls for a more focused approach.

"He has had both a remarkable academic and medical career with a strong emphasis in health policy research," said DeSantis in a statement. "Dr. Ladapo will bring great leadership to the Department of Health. I would also like to thank both Dr. Scott Rivkees and Dr. Shamarial Roberson for their hard work on behalf of Floridians.”

Ladapo will also be employed as a professor by the University of Florida, a similar arrangement that Rivkees had. UF will pay a portion of the surgeon general's salary.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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