Wikipedia defines “Florida Man” as an “Internet meme first popularized in 2013, referring to an alleged prevalence of male persons performing irrational or absurd actions in the US state of Florida.”
Governor Ron DeSantis is the embodiment of a Florida Man.
I have previously cited my cousin Mort– a nationally respected cardiologist who has written about the various kinds of “snake oil” routinely touted by crazy folks or those out to make a buck– in prior posts. (If you are interested in his book on the subject, you can find it here.) He and his wife recently moved to Florida, and he has periodically shared his frustration with the DeSantis administration in op-eds published in the local newspaper.
Mort is especially appalled by DeSantis’ recent all-out attack on vaccines–an attack that depends for its effectiveness on ignorance of–and a broad repudiation of– medical science. As his recent op-ed began,
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has recently embraced COVID-19 vaccine skepticism, and has formed a state-wide group to investigate vaccine “wrongdoing” But in so doing, he is testing the limits of how far political interests can usurp the role of science.
After reviewing for readers the rigorous testing process that all medications , including vaccines, must go through before they are made available to the public, Mort shared the results of multiple peer-reviewed studies of the COVID vaccines. These studies–which involved thousands of individuals–confirmed the efficacy of the vaccines in preventing serious illness and death.
DeSantis–playing to the anti-science, anti-intellectual MAGA base– insists that these results ignore dangerous side-effects.
One of the research studies Mort cited provides a fascinating insight into the incidence of side-effects. It found that. “general adverse systemic reactions were experienced by 35% of placebo recipients after the first dose and 32% after the second. Those receiving the active vaccine experienced initially such symptoms in 46%.”
Placebos, of course, are harmless substances with no therapeutic effect–make-believe medications used by researchers as a control when testing new drugs. And yet, 32% of those receiving what were essentially sugar pills reported adverse side-effects.
What have these studies found to be the actual incidence and severity of side-effects?
Serious allergic reactions to both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines reportedly average between 2 and 10 per million doses. If this happens, healthcare providers can effectively and immediately treat these reactions. More common reports of inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or its coverings (pericarditis) are also rare and usually not severe. Reports of deaths after COVID-19 vaccination are also rare. The FDA requires healthcare providers to report any deaths after COVID-19 vaccination even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. More than 657 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through December 7, 2022. During this time, 17,868 preliminary reports of deaths (0.0027%) among people who had previously received COVID-19 vaccine, a percentage not significantly higher that those receiving placebos.
DeSantis’ call for a grand jury investigation of wrongdoing connected to the vaccines has been roundly debunked. As FactCheck reported,
While announcing a request for a grand jury probe into “crimes and wrongdoing” related to the COVID-19 vaccines, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his panel of contrarian experts repeatedly suggested the shots were too risky. But such claims are unsupported and based on flawed analyses.
The vast majority of scientists, public health officials and other experts have endorsed the vaccines because the original randomized controlled trials and subsequent safety and effectiveness studies have shown the shots provide good protection against severe disease and death, with few safety concerns.
Leading this effort to misrepresent and politicize public health is Joseph Ladapo, DeSantis’ chosen surgeon general, who has promoted disproved treatments such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, and questioned the safety of masking and vaccines. Ladapo has also recommended against vaccinating babies and children below the age of 5 and against vaccinating healthy children between the ages of 5 and 17. As FactCheck has reported, this advice is also at odds with that of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC and numerous medical experts.
This deliberate effort to dissuade Florida residents from getting vaccinated is appalling. To the extent those residents believe DeSantis–and a majority of them did recently vote for him–the state will see many unnecessary deaths. I recently shared statistics showing that Republican deaths from COVID have greatly exceeded Democratic deaths, mainly as a result of lower vaccination levels among Republicans.
Worse still, Florida has a large elderly population, and the elderly are much more likely to die from COVID than younger, healthier individuals.
In his zeal to appeal to the GOP’S lowest common denominator, DeSantis is obviously willing to cause a few hundred extra deaths. He is thus the personification of a “male person performing irrational or absurd actions in the state of Florida.”