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Florida’s Ladapo rejects CDC guidance on Covid vaccines for kids

To date, 49 states have accepted the CDC’s recommendations on Covid vaccinations for kids. Thanks to Joseph Ladapo, Florida is the exception.


Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo appeared on Fox News last week, promoting a familiar message. Public health experts, the controversial doctor argued, told the public that masks and vaccines would “end the pandemic,” but the authorities’ assertions have been “proven false.”

The state surgeon general’s pitch was wildly misleading. Scientists, physicians, and other public health officials didn’t say masks and vaccines would “end the pandemic,” they said masks and vaccines would help slow the spread of Covid-19. Ladapo had it backwards when he said the experts’ claims have been discredited.

But the Floridian’s rhetoric had an underlying point: Ladapo was effectively telling viewers that when it comes to people protecting themselves during a pandemic, he thinks the public shouldn’t necessarily trust those in positions of authority.

That, evidently, includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NBC News reported yesterday:

Florida’s surgeon general on Monday said “healthy” children should not get Covid-19 vaccines. In a roundtable featuring Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo announced that “the Florida Department of Health is going to be the first state to officially recommend against the Covid-19 vaccines for healthy children.”

Note, this isn’t a position rooted in opposition to “government mandates”; it’s simply an anti-vaccination position, espoused by a state surgeon general, during a pandemic.

Ladapo’s stance, the NBC News report added, contradicts CDC guidance, which says all people over age 5 should get vaccinated. A New York Times report added, “The government notes that vaccinating children can also protect family members who are not eligible for vaccination — including children younger than 5 — or who are at increased risk for serious illness if infected. More children were hospitalized during the Omicron surge than at any other point in the pandemic.”

To date, 49 states have accepted the CDC’s recommendations — though Florida’s defiance may very well encourage officials in red states to do the same.

But making matters worse is some of the other rhetoric Ladapo used at yesterday’s event. The Washington Post noted that the state surgeon general not only falsely accused public health experts of being wrong, he also insisted they’ve played a malicious role during the global crisis.

“I think one thing that’s very important at this point is to not let these people get away with it, is just the best way to put it, because there are — the people that have led us to the point that we are, they want us to forget how we got here and they want us to forget that their choices, that they made for everyone, were the wrong choices that basically led to no appreciable benefit,” Ladapo said. “And we cannot let them forget. We have to hold them accountable.”

Among my concerns is that regular, everyday folks in Florida may not realize why it would be in their interests to ignore Ladapo’s deeply strange perspective.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, let’s not forget that Ladapo’s former supervisor at UCLA discouraged Florida officials from hiring the controversial doctor, explaining that he relies on his opinions more than scientific evidence. The UCLA supervisor added that Ladapo’s weird theories “created a stressful environment for his research and clinical colleagues and subordinates,” some of whom believed the doctor “violated the duty in the Hippocratic Oath to behave honestly and ethically.”

It was not the first time Ladapo’s work at UCLA generated scrutiny. It was during his tenure in California when the physician also claimed in a USA Today op-ed that his perspective on Covid treatments had been shaped by his experience “taking care of patients with COVID-19 at UCLA’s flagship hospital.” Two weeks later, Ladapo added in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that he had his experience “caring for patients with suspected or diagnosed Covid-19 infections at UCLA.”

Thanks to reporting from The Rachel Maddow Show, those claims have since been called into question. As my colleague Kay Guerrero explained in a report in November, “Several former colleagues of Dr. Joseph Ladapo ... say he misled the public about his experience treating Covid-19 patients.”

One UCLA source also said, in reference to Ladapo, “A lot of people here at UCLA are glad that he is gone because we were embarrassed by his opinions and behavior. At the same time, we don’t wish this on the people of Florida. They don’t deserve to have someone like him making their health decisions.”

The reporting came on the heels of a Ladapo press conference in which he was critical of Covid testing.

A few months prior, Ladapo questioned the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, denounced vaccine requirements, referenced unsubstantiated conspiracy theories to argue against the vaccines, and encouraged Floridians to “stick with their intuition,” as opposed to following the guidance of public health officials who actually know what they’re talking about.

As regular readers may recall, it was around the same time when Ladapo started pushing “innovative” Covid-19 treatments with little track record of success, to the frustration of state physicians and medical experts.

Before taking office, the doctor also spent much of the pandemic questioning the value of vaccines and the efficacy of masks, while simultaneously touting ineffective treatments such as hydroxychloroquine.

It led the editorial board of The Orlando Sentinel to describe Ladapo as a “COVID crank” who’s been “associated with a right-wing group of physicians whose members include a physician who believes infertility and miscarriages are the result of having sex with demons and witches during dreams.”

Ron DeSantis and Republican state senators wanted him to be state surgeon general anyway.

Many Florida families will see Ladapo’s title and assume the state’s official surgeon general must know what he’s talking about, or he wouldn’t be the state’s official surgeon general.

Traditionally, that might’ve been a safe assumption. In Florida in 2022, skepticism of Ladapo’s advice is probably the safer course.