Florida scraps pro-vaccine ads in favour of ones that don’t mention Covid shot

Move comes as DeSantis has emerged as hero to antivaxxers

John Bowden
Friday 24 December 2021 03:15
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New Florida anti-Covid campaign downplays importance of vaccines

Florida’s Department of Health moved in early November to end a public service advisory (PSA) campaign aimed at encouraging vaccinations in favour of new ads that do not mention the jabs as an effective measure to treat Covid-19.

The state, which is currently experiencing a massive surge in new Covid-19 infections amid the spread of the Omicron variant, apparently moved last month to end its efforts to encourage state residents to get vaccinated over the airways. A local news affiliate, WPLG, first reported the change on Tuesday.

Previous ads paid for by the Florida Department of Health on local TV stations called the Covid-19 vaccine “easy, safe, and effective” at preventing Covid-19. Those ads ran until early November, according to the news station, before being replaced with a new campaign promoting vitamin consumption and exercise. At no point do the new ads mention vaccines in their narration, which health experts universally agree are the best option for preventing serious cases of Covid-19 and lowering your risk of infection.

At one point in the ad, a graphic is displayed onscreen for a few seconds with the word “vaccination” on a list of effective anti-Covid methods, and only after the ad lists effective methods for treating Covid-19 if one is already infected.

In their report, WPLG stated that the changes to the ads were made based on demands from Governor Ron DeSantis’s office. Mr DeSantis has emerged as a hero for vaccine sceptics on the right after moving earlier this year to offer law enforcement positions in the state to officers who resigned from agencies in states where police and other officials are required to receive Covid-19 vaccinations to continue working.

“Direction for the new ads come straight from the top, Governor Ron DeSantis, and the change has been noticeable,” reported WPLG, which did not cite a source for that claim.

The news station also reported that funding for the previous ad campaign, which had not run out, was redirected to an anti-smoking campaign while the pro-vaccine ads were taken down and retooled.

The Florida state Department of Health did not immediately return a request for comment on that assertion by WPLG or respond to questions about why the ads were changed to lessen the prominence of vaccinations as an effective anti-Covid tactic.

Mr DeSantis has remained a fierce opponent of President Joe Biden’s plan to mandate vaccinations for millions of US workers, including federal employees and healthcare workers.

The GOP remains split on the issue of vaccinations; some, like former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have espoused the effectiveness and safety of the jabs in public interviews. Others have chosen to spread misinformation about the vaccines, portraying them falsely as dangerous and untested.

Former Alaska Gov Sarah Palin fell into the latter camp in recent days when she made headlines for vowing that she would get the jab “over my dead body”.

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