Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday asked his state’s Supreme Court to give the green light to an investigation into “any and all wrongdoing in Florida regarding Covid-19 vaccines,” his latest move to test the effectiveness of the vaccines in doubt and the fear of side effects.
In the petition filed with the Florida Supreme Court, the Republican governor requests that a grand jury be set up to investigate a broad group of entities involved in the development, distribution and promotion of the vaccines, including pharmaceutical manufacturers and their executive officers, as well as medical associations.
DeSantis also said on Tuesday that he was establishing a public health integrity committee — a panel that would oppose the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which DeSantis said “serves no useful function; it really serves to bring out stories rather than evidence-based medicine. The panel reviews the guidelines and actions of federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the CDC.
DeSantis has made COVID-19 vaccine skepticism his calling card ahead of a possible run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. The governor, who rode to victory in November in his bid for a second term, is positioning himself to the right of former president Donald Trump, a potential rival who was in office when the vaccine was developed.
The announcements came Tuesday at a vaccine roundtable that DeSantis led. Florida Governor’s Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, pointing out examples of the vaccine causing myocarditis and inflammation of the heart during the roundtable, said pharmaceutical companies should provide more data to independent researchers so they can further study vaccine side effects. .
“We will answer this question. It’s a question I’m sure the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna lie awake late at night, hoping no one ever looks at. But we’re going to look here in Florida,” Ladapo said during the roundtable.
Cases of myocarditis and pericarditis, inflammation of the heart and lining of the heart, are rare after mRNA vaccines, although they are more common in young men. The risk of heart inflammation is much higher from Covid-19 than from vaccination.
After large clinical trials, the FDA has approved the injections for use in people 6 months and older, and CDC continues to recommend them. Experts and government agencies say the benefits far outweigh the risks, as the vaccines dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from Covid-19.
An analysis released Tuesday by the Commonwealth Fund and the Yale School of Public Health estimated that Covid-19 vaccines have prevented more than 3.2 million deaths and 18.5 million hospitalizations in the United States and saved more than $1.15 trillion in saved medical costs.
DeSantis has often touted his decision to avoid the restrictions many other states put in place in the early months of the pandemic.
“I kept this state open and I kept the state free, and we now have the largest budget surplus in Florida history,” he said in an October debate against Democratic challenger Charlie Crist.
Early in the pandemic, DeSantis had advocated for the need for vaccines. But his message has changed since mid-2021 — a shift that coincides with skepticism among conservatives who have at times booed or rebuked Trump for touting vaccines.
DeSantis moved last year to ban cruise lines departing from Florida from vaccinating their customers, and to prevent municipalities from imposing vaccine mandates. In June, DeSantis touted Florida’s status as the only state not to pre-order vaccines for children under age 5.
Florida is an outlier in that it advises against the Covid-19 vaccine for healthy children — in violation of CDC, recommendations from other states and Florida’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.