Florida governor Ron DeSantis still won’t disclose whether he has received the Covid booster shot, a choice that’s unexpectedly creating a political rift with his usual ally Donald Trump.
The Republican leader, who got the Johnson & Johnson shot last spring, declined to comment on his updated vaccination status during a press conference on Friday.
“That’s something that people should make their own decisions on. I’m not going to let that be a weapon for people to be able use. I think that’s a private matter,” he said.
The 43-year-old also falsely claimed that the Food and Drug Administration recommends against booster shots for people in his age group.
“I have said publicly that, you know, the FDA recommended against boosters for people in my age group, but the CDC overrode that, and I think that was based on politics. I don’t think that that was based on science,” Mr DeSantis said.
“So in Florida, they’ve been available for people. People can make their own decisions on it. But it’s not been something that, you know, that we’ve been telling people in my age group, you know, to go out and do.”
It’s true that last September, the FDA initially did not authorise booster shots for all adults, instead limiting the jabs to the elderly, those with high-risk medical conditions, and those with occupational or institutional hazards. An FDA advisory panel had voted against including all people 16 and older in the order, citing a need for more data.
In late November, however, the agency said it had further analysed the situation and opened booster shots to all people 18 and older.
“Throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the FDA has worked to make timely public health decisions as the pandemic evolves. Covid-19 vaccines have proven to be the best and highly effective defense against Covid-19. Authorising the use of a single booster dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for individuals 18 years of age and older helps to provide continued protection against Covid-19, including the serious consequences that can occur, such as hospitalisation and death,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said at the time.
An accompanying statement from the agency noted, “since Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech initially submitted safety and effectiveness data on a single booster dose following primary vaccination to the FDA, additional real-world data have become available.
Mr DeSantis has long been cagey about his Covid vaccination status, and his administration has made it a major part of his agenda to attempt to block mask and vaccinate mandates.
Unlike other governors, who took the vaccine on camera to encourage public trust, Floridians only learned Mr DeSantis got the initial jab through a spokesperson, after the fact.
He has continued to provide illusive answers around the booster in the months since, telling an interviewer on Fox that, “So, I’ve done, whatever I did. The normal shot. And that at the end of the day is peoples’ individual decisions about what they want to do.”
Donald Trump, who claims the Covid vaccines as one of the major achievements of his administration, has implied politicians like Mr DeSantis are “gutless” for declining to share their vaccination status. The two men are both seen as top contenders for the Republican spot in the 2024 presidential race, despite their past cooperation.
“I’ve had the booster. Many politicians — I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get the booster?’ because they had the vaccine, and they’re answering like — in other words, the answer is ‘yes’ but they don’t want to say it because they’re gutless,” the former president, who has yet to announce an official 2024 bid, said last week.
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