Joseph Ladapo: Florida Democrats walk out over vote to confirm surgeon general who questions Covid vaccines

‘I have no ill will towards them and I hope we can work together on issues of public health relevance to Floridians’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 26 January 2022 19:19
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Related video: Florida Surgeon General proposes children skip COVID tests

Florida Democrats walked out of the confirmation hearing for Joseph Ladapo, Governor Ron DeSantis’ choice to become the state’s surgeon general.

Ahead of the debate on whether to appoint Dr Ladapo to the position, Democratic State Senator Lauren Book said that her party would leave before the committee vote.

“We don’t feel that we’re getting any answers,” Ms Book said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “The Florida Senate Democrats in this committee now are going to abstain, walk out and come back when we have more business.”

The Republicans, who are in the majority on the committee, then advanced Dr Ladapo’s nomination.

Dr Ladapo was appointed as Florida surgeon general by Mr DeSantis on 21 September last year. He said the Democrats walking out of the committee meeting was “unfortunate”.

“I certainly wish them well. I have no ill will towards them and I hope we can work together on issues of public health relevance to Floridians,” he told reporters.

The Democrats left the hearing after questioning Dr Ladapo on his beliefs on the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines and masks. They also asked him about his treatment of Democratic State Senator Tina Polsky.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that during a meeting in October between Ms Polsky and Dr Ladapo, he refused to wear a face-covering, despite that Ms Polsky was being treated for breast cancer.

Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson said in a letter that Dr Ladapo’s actions were “unprofessional”.

People close to Mr DeSantis then argued that Ms Polsky had been seen without a mask in a large meeting room before the discussion in her office with Dr Ladapo.

When asked by Ms Book on Wednesday if he regretted his behaviour, Dr Ladapo declined to answer directly three times but said that it’s “very important to respect people’s preferences”.

Democrats grew frustrated during the Wednesday hearing as Dr Ladapo avoided giving clear answers to their questions. He was asked five times by Ms Book to answer “yes” or “no” to the question if Covid-19 vaccines are effective. Each time, Dr Ladapo avoided giving a yes or no answer, instead saying that the vaccines provide “reasonable effectiveness for the prevention of hospitalization and death” and “relatively low effectiveness for prevention” against the transmission of the virus as time passes.

While there has been a rise in infections among the vaccinated amid the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, seniors hospitalized with Covid-19 last month were 49 times more likely to be unvaccinated than those who had received a full vaccination course and a booster shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr Ladapo said after the hearing that he thought he had answered the questions accurately.

Mr DeSantis replaced the previous surgeon general, Scott Rivkees, with Dr Ladapo in September, gaining a health official who was closer to his views on lockdowns, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The process for his hiring as a tenured professor at the University of Florida has been questioned by colleagues, and in November, he pushed new laws restricting the use of vaccine mandates in the workplace. The state Department of Health then instituted rules enabling employees to avoid complying with vaccine requirements.

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