Florida health official raises alarm on mRNA vaccines, despite heart wrenching rise in cases! What’s the matter?

Visual Representation for vaccination | Credits: Reuters

United States: The use of the mRNA coronavirus vaccine has been asked to stop by the famous Florida health official on Wednesday. The reason cited was that the vaccine shots could contaminate the DNA of the patients.

However, it is a discredited theory that has been disapproved by federal and global health officials previously.

In a recently released state bulletin, Florida Surgeon General Joseph A. Ladapo made the announcement, which came after months of back-and-forth with federal regulators, who had repeatedly reproved his rhetoric around the vaccine, the Washington Post reported.

Criticism gathered!

Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s public health school who led the White House’s national coronavirus response before stepping down last year, said, “We’ve seen this pattern from Dr. Ladapo that every few months he raises some new concern, and it quickly gets debunked,” and “This idea of DNA fragments — it’s scientific nonsense. People who understand how these vaccines are made and administered understand that there is no risk here.”

The Florida health department did not answer questions about whether Ladapo’s new stance would affect vaccine access for the state’s patients and health providers right away. They also did not respond on whether his decision to repeat debunked claims would create doubts about other normal routine shots.

The data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that Florida is way behind many states when it comes to how much of its population has received an updated booster dose.

On the other hand, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have been on the rise all over the country. In just one week or so, starting from December 23, around 30,000 were newly hospitalized, the Washington Post reported.

A DeSantis appointee who preceded Ladapo as Florida surgeon general before stepping down in September 2021, Scott Rivkees, called Wednesday’s announcement “surprising and disappointing” and at odds with settled science about the safety of coronavirus vaccines.

Support Garnered!

The current DeSantis officials have, however, praised the announcement.

Christina Pushaw, a DeSantis campaign official, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, where she thanked Ladapo “for standing up for scientific integrity” and expressed being “Grateful to live in a state where Big Pharma does not dictate health policy recommendations.”

The DeSantis campaign, although, did not respond to questions regarding whether the governor coordinated with Ladapo on the announcement or whether he would adopt a similar position if elected president.

Lapado’s actions are praised by a network of anti-vaccine groups. They often claim that the shots are ineffective while they push for their own treatment, which has little or no scientific evidence.

The opinion against the vaccine

As per the Washington Post report, polling has shown that Republicans remain disproportionately skeptical of the coronavirus vaccines, a position sometimes amplified by GOP politicians: 55 percent of Republican respondents vowed that they would “definitely not get” the vaccine compared with 12 percent of Democrats, according to November polling released by health policy researchers at KFF.

mRNa vaccine | Credits: Google

The studies also reflect that the difference in attitude regarding vaccination and GOP voters’ lower uptake of the vaccine- have been linked to Republicans dying at higher rates than Democrats from the coronavirus after vaccines became widely available in April 2021.

According to a former Florida surgeon general, Rivkees, while pointing to the data showing more than 8,000 COVID deaths in Florida last year, emphasized that “the vast majority are likely to be vaccine-preventable if people are up to date on their current vaccines.”

Rivkees said, “If you’re going to take mRNA vaccination off the table … and if you’re not giving guidance to residents of Florida as to what to do to protect against covid, this is something that is a major deviation from public health.”

Political angle cited 

David Gorski, a Wayne State University professor of surgery and oncology and managing editor of Science-Based Medicine, which debunks misinformation in medicine, said Ladapo’s claims about coronavirus vaccines are grounded in politics, not science.

Gorski said, “I’ve never seen a state health authority parrot anti-vaccine disinformation as a justification for stopping the use of a vaccine that has saved so many lives before,” and further added, “The Republican Party has adopted anti-vaccine, anti-public health ideology of this sort as part of its belief system.”

Trump wanted to brag about the 2020 operation Warp Speed, his initiative that helped speed up the creation of coronavirus vaccines. But he rarely talked about vaccines in the 2024 campaign and has shown surprise to others when many of his fans don’t like vaccines, the Washington Post reported.

What are government bodies saying?

On Wednesday, federal officials reiterated their trust in mRNA vaccines. These were made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech and have been widely used since their global introduction in late 2020. Over 1.5 billion people worldwide have been given vaccine shots, said the company spokesperson, as reported by The Washington Post.

CDC Director Mandy Cohen said while emphasizing that she and her family are vaccinated, “It’s one of the most studied vaccines at this point.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave approval to several iterations of the coronavirus vaccines and laid stress on Wednesday about the shot’s “safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality.”

FDA spokeswoman Cherie Duvall-Jones said in a statement, “Perpetuating references to information about residual DNA in COVID-19 vaccines without placing it within the context of the manufacturing process and the known benefits of the vaccine is misleading,” the Washington Post reported.

More about Lapado

Lapado, a doctor from Harvard who had not specialized in infectious disease, became famous after writing columns in the Wall Street Journal that raised questions about public health interventions throughout the pandemic. 

The columns attracted the attention of DeSantis, who picked Ladapo in 2021 to oversee a roughly 15,000-person health department in the nation’s third-most populous state.

Lapado increasingly talked about the safety of the vaccines. He was also joined by colleagues and media personalities doing the same thing.

He also appeared in the podcast of Del Bigtree, who led the anti-vaccine group Informed Consent Action Network before announcing this week that he joined Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign as the independent candidate’s communications director.

He also appeared in an online program hosted by Stew Peters, a far-right media personality who has called for former presidential medical adviser Anthony S. Fauci to be hanged.

Lapado’s position has made him argue with the FDA and federal officials, who said his claims to be baseless and dangerous.

As per the Washington Post reports, Peter Marks, the FDA’s top vaccine official, wrote to Ladapo on December 14, “We stand firmly behind our regulatory decision-making with the authorizations and approvals of the COVID-19 vaccines,” and further added, “The challenge we continue to face is the ongoing proliferation of misinformation and disinformation about these vaccines which results in vaccine hesitancy that lowers vaccine uptake.”

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