DeSantis doubles down on misinformation campaign, vows to impanel grand jury on COVID-19 vaccine
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is pulling out all the stops to attract COVID conspiracy voters in his quest for the 2024 Republican crown. This weekend, he started laying the groundwork by indicting the COVID-19 vaccine, citing an unfounded conspiracy about the vaccine’s side effects.
Speaking at a private event, DeSantis announced his administration intends to impanel a statewide grand jury to “investigate any and all wrongdoing” by the makers of the mRNA vaccine.
“We are going to work to hold these manufacturers accountable for this mRNA [vaccine] because they said there were no side effects, and we know that there have been, and there have been a lot,” DeSantis said at the event.
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DeSantis was joined over the weekend by his anti-mask Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo—a science-denying Republican in charge of public health in Florida—who disputes the documented efficacy of masking, vaccines, and quarantining for those with COVID-19.
DeSantis and Ladapo are highlighting a rarely found side effect called myocarditis or pericarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, which in some studies have been linked to the COVID-19 vaccine.
However, as NBC News reports, among the hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses, there’ve only been around 1,000 cases of myocarditis or pericarditis in recipients. A Federal Drug Administration official told NBC that even when the condition is present, it does not lead to cardiac-related death.
“There is no evidence of increased risk of deaths following mRNA vaccines compared to individuals who did not get vaccinated,” the official said. “In fact, evidence from well-conducted, peer-reviewed, published studies suggests that the risk of death is higher for unvaccinated individuals for nearly every age group.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the “benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine continue to outweigh any potential risks.”
“Most patients with myocarditis or pericarditis after COVID-19 vaccination responded well to medicine and rest and felt better quickly. Most cases have been reported after receiving Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (mRNA COVID-19 vaccines), particularly in male adolescents and young adults,” according to the CDC’s website
But the CDC isn’t good enough for Ladapo or DeSantis. So, according to Channel 8 News WFLA, Florida conducted its own study.
“We did a study in Florida, and you saw an 86% increase in cardiac-related activity from people 18 to 39 from mRNA shots. […] So we’re going to be doing some stuff to bring accountability there.”
In October, Ladapo recommended that adult men under the age of 40 not get the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
“The Florida Department of Health (Department) conducted an analysis through a self-controlled case series, which is a technique originally developed to evaluate vaccine safety,” a news release from Ladapo states. “This analysis found that there is an 84% increase in the relative incidence of cardiac-related death among males 18-39 years old within 28 days following mRNA vaccination. With a high level of global immunity to COVID-19, the benefit of vaccination is likely outweighed by this abnormally high risk of cardiac-related death among men in this age group.”
The tweet that included the information was promptly removed by Twitter and flagged as misinformation. Because as everyone knows by now that getting COVID-19 can kill you, and the risk of getting sick from the vaccine is minute.
“The bottom line is that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing both infections and deaths,” Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, Scripps Health chief medical officer for acute care and clinical excellence, tells Scripps News.
According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, there’ve been more than 7 million cases and 83,000 deaths from COVID-19 in Florida since the start of the pandemic. But these staggering numbers aren’t what Republicans are focused on; the GOP sees a governor playing the long game with conservative voters.
At the top of 2022, DeSantis made his positions for voters clear.
“People know that Florida is a free state. […] They’re not gonna have you shut down. They’re not gonna have restrictions,” the governor said.
And by “free state,” DeSantis must be referring to the “freedom” to ban books, punish teachers for teaching actual American history, and criminalize doctors for doing their jobs as reproductive health providers.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom ran an attack ad on Independence Day inviting Floridians to move to a state with real freedom.
And despite what many medical experts have said, the fact that COVID-19 cases are back on the rise, and that the CDC has just recently recommended people mask up indoors, DeSantis has stood his ground.
“In the summer of 2020, when it wasn’t fashionable, we made clear that kids needed to be in school. We faced opposition — from hysterical media, from unions and the politicians they control. We even faced lawsuits aiming to close the schools, but we wouldn’t allow fear or politics to harm our kids. We were right, and they were wrong. And millions of families in Florida are better for it,” DeSantis said during his state of the state address this year.
DeSantis isn’t fooling anyone. He’s playing the long game. He freed himself from the anchor of former President Donald Trump and untethered himself from science, ethics, and basic human decency. Now he has his sights on the White House, and it doesn’t matter how many people die of COVID in the process—as long as he grabs the group of voters who feed on conspiracy theories and hate.
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