A Florida lawmaker wants to review all vaccine mandates in the state — not just mandates for the coronavirus vaccine.
Republican State Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. is a vociferous opponent of vaccine mandates to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and voted in favor of a bill earlier this year that bans businesses from requiring proof of vaccination from customers. (However, he has expressed openness to allowing employers to require their workers to be vaccinated.)
Diaz, who serves as chair of the health policy committee in the Florida State Senate, has also promoted skepticism over masks and suggested ways for parents to undermine masking rules in their school districts by encouraging them to use the state’s school choice program to reduce tax revenues for districts choosing to implement mask mandates.
Diaz himself has not been vaccinated with any of the coronavirus vaccines, and contracted COVID this winter.
The state senator’s views contradict what scientists have said works to limit the spread of COVID. Masks are exceptionally better than nothing at all in reducing transmission rates, and for protecting children in schools. Research also shows that vaccines do indeed work to reduce the spread of the virus. Vaccines are even important for those who’ve had coronavirus before, as a person will be better protected against the possibility of reinfection if they get vaccinated after having been previously infected.
Yet Diaz isn’t content limiting his broadsides to COVID vaccine requirements alone. According to reporting from Florida Politics, Diaz believes it’s time to “review” mandates for all vaccines, including the vaccine requirements that schools have had in place for decades.
Currently, K-12 public schools in Florida require a number of vaccinations before students can attend classes, including for protection against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis B and measles. Some of these ailments were once responsible for thousands of childhood deaths each year. Before the polio vaccine was developed in the 1950s, more than 1,800 children died of polio per year in the U.S and thousands were permanently disabled, while around 432 children died per year of measles before a vaccine became widely available in the 1960s.
In recent years, misinformation has made vaccine hesitancy among parents more common, and there has been a resurgence in small, localized measles outbreaks. In 2019 alone, the U.S saw around 1,251 cases of the highly contagious virus, the highest number recorded since 1992.
In spite of his desire for a review, Diaz has conceded that vaccines which have stood the test of time may not need such deep examination. But given the dangerous rhetoric Diaz has peddled throughout the pandemic, there is cause for concern over whether his “review” of vaccine mandates will be based on science — or whether they’ll favor expanding so-called “parental freedoms” over protecting the broader population.