Despite increasing cases of COVID-19, Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration are urging against the booster shot. This comes after an FDA-approved COVID booster was recommended for those six months and older by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel earlier this month to combat new variants.
“I will not stand by and let the FDA and CDC use healthy Floridians as guinea pigs for new booster shots that have not been proven to be safe or effective,” said DeSantis, who is known for making false claims about the COVID-19 vaccine, following a virtual discussion on the booster. DeSantis’s remarks contradict the FDA’s messaging on the safety and efficacy of the shot and how the benefits outweigh any potential risks.
“The public can be assured that these updated vaccines have met the agency’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality,” Peter Marks, director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, wrote in a statement. “We very much encourage those who are eligible to consider getting vaccinated.”
In the discussion, hosted by DeSantis, Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, told viewers not to worry about getting infected with COVID and advised people 65 and under to forgo the booster shot.
Throughout the pandemic, Ladapo has dispensed advice on COVID and vaccines in opposition to recommendations from the CDC, the FDA, and the larger medical community. Health officials say vaccination is the most effective way to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.
Experts say the vaccine is safe and effective
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, previously told Fortune that eligible people should get the booster when available.
“It is clear that the vaccine remains safe and effective at all ages,” he said. “People at high risk will especially benefit from the vaccine.” The American Medical Association also told Fortune new boosters can prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths.
According to wastewater tracking and surveillance, experts predict COVID levels are nearing 2020’s peak. In Florida, COVID deaths amassed to 2,235 throughout 16 weeks ending on Sept. 14, according to The Florida Health Department.
“We have more tools than ever to prevent the worst outcomes from COVID-19,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, CDC director, said in a statement earlier this month. “CDC is now recommending updated COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 6 months and older to better protect you and your loved ones.”
Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University, told POLITICO that DeSantis’s conversation on the booster did not provide robust information from experts on the science of vaccination.
“In general, they’re cherry-picking data and facts and science,” Salmon said. “And I think that they’re there, because they don’t want to recommend this vaccine for Florida.”