An updated COVID-19 vaccine, which experts say will protect against the latest variants, will be available later this week at pharmacies, health departments and elsewhere.
Florida Health Officials Warn Against New COVID Booster, Contradicting CDC Guidance
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s top health department official are directly contradicting federal health recommendations and warning residents against getting a new COVID-19 booster, saying there’s not enough evidence it provides benefits that outweigh risks.
DeSantis, a 2024 Republican presidential contender, said he won’t allow federal officials who green-lit the new boosters to “use healthy Floridians as guinea pigs for new booster shots that have not been proven to be safe or effective.”
The Florida governor’s comments are the latest escalation of his efforts to place his Covid-19 management at the forefront of his campaign. DeSantis in recent weeks has sharply criticized former President Donald Trump’s handling of the early months of the pandemic, arguing that Trump ceded control to Anthony Fauci, the long-time top federal infectious disease expert.
DeSantis strongly promoted COVID-19 vaccines when they were first released but has since become one of the most prominent public officials raising questions about their safety, even as federal health officials insist that the benefits of the shots outweigh any risks.
“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,” DeSantis said in a news release after the panel discussion.
The governor has increasingly expressed skepticism over what he has called "the jab" amid his campaign for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. Last week, his campaign sent out an email to supporters vowing to "fight back against every bogus attempt the Left makes to expand government control" in regards to COVID-19 precautions.
Wednesday's announcement comes as Florida hospitals are reporting more COVID cases than any other state. Florida’s pandemic death toll has surpassed 90,000 and the weekly new cases topped 24,000 for two consecutive weeks.
Since early July, the United States has seen a spike in COVID hospital admissions. And it's likely infections are rising too but since federal authorities ended the public health emergency in May, states and the CDC no longer track positive infections.
In an effort to stop the disease from spreading, some schools, hospitals, and businesses have temporarily implemented mask requirements or have recommended masking up again. And despite there being no widespread COVID mandate, Republicans have been pushing back against COVID recommendations.
The CDC is recommending everyone age six months and older receive one new shot from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. The CDC guidance says individuals 65 or older, or who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, can get new shots.
The CDC website says the updated or "bivalent" vaccines protect "against both the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the Omicron variant BA.4 and BA.5."
Federal officials say the new vaccines are safe and effective.
"The FDA is confident in the safety and effectiveness of these updated vaccines, and the agency’s benefit-risk assessment demonstrates that the benefits of these vaccines for individuals 6 months of age and older outweigh the risks," the FDA said on Monday in information posted on its website.
On Tuesday, the CDC said the vaccination is the best way to prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths, and to help people reduce chances of suffering from long-term COVID effects.
"The virus that causes COVID-19 is always changing, and protection from COVID-19 vaccines declines over time," the CDC said on its website. "Receiving an updated COVID-19 vaccine can restore protection and provide enhanced protection against the variants currently responsible for most infections and hospitalizations in the United States."