For a guy who claims to follow the science, Gov. Ron DeSantis has a shaky grasp of how vaccines work.
Consider his recent boneheaded statement about vaccines at a news conference recently: “It’s about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn’t impact me or anyone else.”
Tell that to Florida’s exhausted doctors and nurses, who have struggled to keep unvaccinated Floridians alive during this summer’s record-setting COVID surge.
Tell that to the thousands of spouses and children of unvaccinated Floridians who died needlessly from COVID.
And tell that to real public health experts who — unlike politicians who play scientist at news conferences — understand that vaccines against contagious diseases are a collective responsibility, not an individual one.
Somewhere in all his verbal blundering at last week’s press gathering, DeSantis had a valid point to make. While COVID vaccines are extremely effective at keeping people out of the hospital and out of the grave, they are less effective at halting transmission of the virus’ Delta variant.
People who are vaccinated can get COVID, and they can spread the disease. But studies have found that vaccinated people carry less virus and can be infectious for a shorter period of time. That makes a difference not only in the spread of disease but in the impact on society.
These nuances appear to be lost on Dr. DeSantis in formulating his theory that vaccines affect only the individual, not the public.
Anthony Fauci, a real scientist who DeSantis mocks on campaign merchandise, had this to say in response: “Yeah, that’s not true at all.”
DeSantis tried to backtrack at a subsequent news conference, barking at a reporter that he didn’t actually say what video clearly shows him saying. The governor then yakked on and on about the evils of vaccine passports, biomedical security states, blah, blah, blah.
The governor’s self-inflicted vaccine wound was delivered at a news conference where he was touting a worthwhile initiative to open clinics that provide antibody treatments to people who get COVID before they need hospitalization. Some 65,000 people have received this potentially lifesaving treatment in Florida.
Fauci, DeSantis’ favorite foil, has said repeatedly that the antibody treatments work. The fact that DeSantis is aggressively making them available across the state is a good thing.
What would be even better is if DeSantis used these almost daily gatherings to give a full-throated endorsement of vaccines for prevention and antibodies for treatment.
Instead, DeSantis expresses his disappointment that vaccines haven’t achieved herd immunity from COVID, which is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy considering Florida has barely over 50% of the population fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the governor’s war on those attempting to promote public health is, thankfully, not going so great.
A dozen school systems have defied his order against mandating that kids wear masks. Cruise lines are defying his ban on requiring proof of vaccination from passengers before allowing them to sail. And courts are ruling against the governor on both of those scores, most recently a judge’s decision yesterday to prevent Florida from enforcing DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates at public schools.
Still, we remain a state guided by the DeSantis Doctrine on public health. And where has that gotten us? A summer surge that left Florida as the poster child for COVID gone wild.
We’ve pleaded with the governor since July to get serious about promoting more vaccination among Floridians. It’s our best hope for normalcy.
We give up. He won’t listen because it’s not politically expedient for a man with presidential aspirations.
It’s up to other leaders in Florida to change hearts and minds and get us out of this mess.
— Orlando Sentinel