Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Appoints New Surgeon General Who Also Opposes Vaccine Mandates

Dr. Ladapo will serve as Florida’s surgeon general and health department secretary despite his stance on vaccine mandates and ties to vaccine misinformation.

Newly-appointed state Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo speaks during a press conference at Neo City Academy in Kissimmee, Florida on September 22, 2021 | Getty Images
Newly-appointed state Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo speaks during a press conference at Neo City Academy in Kissimmee, Florida on September 22, 2021 | Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has appointed researcher Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo as the state's new surgeon general who has a track record of downplaying the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines for larger populations — a rhetoric commonly used by the governor.

Like DeSantis, Ladapo does not support broad vaccine mandates and believes lockdowns are harmful.

Ladapo has come under fire in the past few days for his ties to the controversial group America's Frontline Doctors, which is known for pushing COVID-19 treatments such as hydroxychloroquine, a drug that former President Trump once referred to as a “cure” for the virus. One member of the group has pushed wild conspiracy theories arguing that some medical ailments can be caused by having sex with demons and witches while sleeping. Another member was charged for attending the deadly January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

After Ladapo's appointment was announced, the new surgeon general doubled down on his stance surrounding COVID-19 prevention measures.

“Florida will completely reject fear as a way of making policies in public health,” Ladapo said in a press conference on Tuesday. “So we're done with fear. That's something that unfortunately has been a centerpiece of health policy in the United States ever since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Increasingly, Gov. DeSantis has separated himself from his original pro-vaccine stance, consistently stating that he opposes both vaccine and mask mandates. When President Biden announced his ambitious plan to have businesses require vaccines or provide weekly proof of a negative COVID-19 test, DeSantis said he was “concerned about [the Biden admin] trying to force mandates on individuals and businesses.” He went on to call the administration’s measures “fundamentally wrong” and “coercive.”

DeSantis has also been called out for his silence in the face of misinformation, choosing not to correct people attending his press conferences. One person claimed during a press briefing last week that the COVID-19 vaccine “changes your RNA,” which DeSantis did not respond or counter. The governor later said, “I don't even remember him saying that, so it's not anything I've said."

DeSantis signed an executive order in July that banned schools from implementing mask mandates by threatening to withhold funding from schools that defy the order. Children and teens in Florida are currently being impacted more by COVID-19 than any other age range, according to the state’s department of health. In response to the executive order, the Biden administration announced that it would use federal funding to pay school board members whose compensation was docked as a result of the mandates. The move is part of the administration’s grant program called “Project SAFE.”

Roughly 57% of Florida’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. The state has had more than 3.5 million COVID-19 cases, including at least 51,000 deaths.