Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced on Tuesday plans to petition the state Supreme Court to establish a grand jury in order to investigate “any and all wrongdoing” he believes exists relating to coronavirus vaccines.
DeSantis gave no indication of what kind of specific wrongdoing he believes may have occurred, either by vaccine manufacturers or by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). DeSantis, along with state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, did suggest, however, that the vaccines were linked to heart problems, including, as Ladapo said in a statement, the “sudden deaths of individuals that received the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida.” These claims mirror others that have been made in the past with no basis in truth, studies and other fact-checks have found.
DeSantis voiced a general doubt about COVID-19 vaccines and whether they could be trusted. “In Florida, it is illegal to mislead and misrepresent, especially when you are talking about the efficacy of a drug,” he said, without giving any indication of how manufacturers misled the public on the vaccines.
The Florida governor, who is viewed as a potential Republican candidate for president in 2024, also expressed deep skepticism against the CDC, stating that, “anything they put out, you just assume, at this point, that it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.”
Critics lambasted the governor for his proposed grand jury investigation, stating that his aims were more political than out of concern for public health.
“This is just another example of politicizing health care. I really don’t understand where they’re going with it,” Lisa Gwynn, a former president of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said regarding the announcement.
DeSantis has indeed politicized the coronavirus crisis in the past, capitalizing on anti-vaccine sentiments and aversions to precautionary measures that some Florida residents, particularly those with conservative viewpoints, have expressed since the start of the pandemic. DeSantis, for example, sold “Don’t Fauci My Florida” shirts and other merchandise on his campaign website, even as coronavirus rates surged in the state.
The governor has long-touted a hands-off, “freedom” response to tackling the pandemic, and has bragged about low coronavirus case counts as he reopened the state sooner than others — but notably, an audit this past summer found that Florida officials had vastly undercounted how many residents were affected by the virus, with many cases and deaths in the state going unreported.
Florida currently ranks as the 14th worst state in the U.S. in terms of how many people are presently dying from COVID-19 on a per capita basis.
Contradicting DeSantis’s narrative, numerous studies have showcased that vaccines for coronavirus aren’t only safe but also effective. One study, for example, found that a 10 percent increase in vaccination levels resulted in 12 percent fewer hospitalizations. And a recently published study from the Commonwealth Fund and Yale School of Public Health estimates that 18.5 million hospitalizations and 3.2 million deaths in the U.S. were prevented thanks to the vaccines, with those estimates deemed conservative by researchers.
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