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Health professionals call on Florida lawmakers to reject the governor's request to ban vaccine mandates

Vaccinated young woman showing COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card
Viacheslav Lopatin/scaliger
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Physicians with the Committee to Protect Health Care are urging Florida legislators to support the promotion of widespread vaccinations and mask use to reduce COVID-19 spread.

Physicians and other health professionals issued a call Monday for Florida lawmakers to reject any bans on COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates. New legislation is forthcoming even as Florida has logged more than 60,000 deaths from COVID-19.

The legislature has convened a special session at Governor Ron DeSantis’ request -- to craft laws designed to ban such mandates.

"We are deeply concerned that he is using this week's session as a platform to raise his political profile by promoting policies that his base may appreciate, but which we as doctors can say without a doubt will put people in danger," said Miami cardiologist Dr. Bernard Ashby, Florida Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care, which hosted the media event via Zoom.

"Gov. DeSantis’s COVID-19 response has led and will continue to lead to unnecessary and avoidable suffering and death," said Dr. Fred Southwick, an infectious disease specialist in Gainesville who blamed disinformation and politics for the 16,000 deaths that happened during last summer’s surge of the Delta variant. "The coronavirus doesn't know the difference between a Republican and a Democrat.”

"Governor DeSantis’s special legislative session won't help schools and businesses remain open safely," said Dr. Jennifer Cowart, an internist in Jacksonville who said she wants more emphasis at the state level on vaccinations. "In fact, by allowing COVID-19 to continue to spread in schools, you will likely do the opposite and expose more children and all Floridians to sickness and suffering.”

Before the opening of the special session, several other national health organizations – the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – also issued a statement calling on the Florida Legislature to reject any proposals that would thwart vaccine mandates.