On Friday, Mr DeSantis referred to getting the Covid vaccine as a “personal choice”, something with which the Herald took issue in Tuesday’s editorial.
“Getting the Covid vaccine is not a ‘personal choice’. It never was, really, but the onslaught of cases fueled by the Delta variant has removed any doubt,” the board writes in an editorial titled “Your ‘personal choice’ not to get COVID vaccine is putting our ‘healthcare heroes’ at risk.”
“And yet that’s not what Florida’s governor would have you believe. On Friday, Gov. DeSantis actually uttered these incredible – and incorrect – words about the vaccine: ‘It’s about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn’t impact me or anyone else’.”
The board slammed the Republican governor’s statement, calling it a “profile in selfishness” for ignoring the role the vaccine plays in reducing community spread of the virus.
Governor DeSantis has previously spoken about the benefits of vaccination and has encouraged people to get their shot. He is himself vaccinated, but his statement about choice has riled many.
“Almost 46,000 have died of Covid in his state since the pandemic began. Too bad we can’t ask the thousands who have died since vaccines became available if they wished everyone around them had gotten vaccinated,” the editorial continues.
The board also lists the number of ways in which Mr DeSantis has repeatedly come out against almost every measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus, even as Florida experiences by far its worst wave of cases since the virus arrived in the US in early 2020.
“This governor already has gone to war against school boards and parents who want to keep kids safer in schools with mask mandates. He’s fought against cruise lines that want to preserve their businesses by making sure their customers can stay Covid-free on ships, by requiring vaccines. Now he’s dismissing the role of vaccines in reducing community spread,” the board writes.
“And it’s the opposite of what he says. Covid’s spread actually is a community problem, and solving it starts with vaccines.”
The paper accuses Mr DeSantis of disregarding the community benefits of vaccines “in his zeal to appeal to the freedom-at-all-costs far-right of his party as he heads into reelection and eyes the White House”.
Acknowledging that breakthrough cases occur and that there are some legitimate medical and religious reasons for not getting vaccinated, the paper hammers home the message that by everyone else getting vaccinated you cut down the chance of getting the virus and passing it on to others.
Vaccinated people help safeguard those who cannot get the vaccine, such as children under 12 and the immunocompromised, such as those with transplanted organs.
The paper also notes that by getting the vaccine you are also helping to protect seniors whose immunity often isn’t robust enough even they are vaccinated.
“You might even be saving the life of someone who simply refuses to get the vaccine,” it adds.
Dr Yvonne Johnson, who spoke with the board, told them that too much emphasis had been made on personal choice and personal risk over the community benefits.
Some healthcare workers blame themselves for not sufficiently conveying that the vaccines save lives.
“I think for most of us, we really take it personally. Like, did we not do enough to get the message out to people that they should get the vaccine?” Dr Johnson says.
The editorial concludes pointedly with a final shot at Governor DeSantis: “We think there’s someone else out there who should be asking that question.”
Florida has recorded more than 3.3 million cases of Covid-19 in 18 months. Of those aged 12 and over who are eligible for the vaccine, 74 per cent have received at least one dose, and 62 per cent are fully vaccinated.
August was Florida’s worst month by far in terms of cases, deaths, and hospitalisations. According to data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the seven-day rolling average of new cases reached almost 30,000 per day at one stage in that month.
Deaths from Covid lag behind the number of new cases, with the seven-day rolling average peaking at 335 per day in early September.
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