Sept. 23, 2021 -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday announced the state’s next surgeon general, one who aligns with the governor’s beliefs that vaccine mandates and other precautionary COVID-19 measures are unnecessary.
DeSantis named Joseph Ladapo, MD, a graduate of Harvard Medical School and a health policy researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles, as both the surgeon general and the secretary of the Florida Department of Health, according to NPR.
Ladapo said he’ll take a broad public health approach in his roles and “reject fear” during the pandemic.
“Florida will completely reject fear as a way of making policies in public health. So, we’re done with fear. That’s something that, unfortunately, has been a centerpiece of health policy in the United States ever since the beginning of the pandemic,” he said during a news conference.
“This idea that people don’t get to make their own decisions on issues of health related to their own personal health is wrong,” he told reporters. “Vaccines are up to the person. There is nothing special about them, compared to any other preventive measure.”
When asked if Florida should promote vaccines, Ladapo said the state should promote “good health” and that vaccines aren’t the only path to that.
“It’s been treated almost like a religion, and that’s just senseless,” he said. “We support measures for good health -- vaccinations, losing weight, exercising more, eating more fruits and vegetables, everything.”
Ladapo also said that too much emphasis has been placed on measuring public health based on how many COVID-19 cases are in an area.
“Public health is not about a single item. It’s not about how many cases of COVID there are in a location -- that is part of public health, but it’s not the only thing,” he said. “That’s over. It’s not going to happen here.”
Instead, officials should focus on the negative effects of keeping children out of schools, particularly those with disabilities, he said. Ladapo has criticized precautionary measures such as mask mandates, lockdowns, and vaccine mandates.
“Our interest in public health will truly be public health,” he said. “It will not be one thing or whatever the flavor of the month is.”
Throughout the pandemic, Ladapo has commented publicly about coronavirus policies and treatments. In 2020, he wrote in support of using the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 and appeared alongside America’s Frontline Doctors, a group of health care workers who have spread misinformation and supported treatments such as ivermectin, according to CBS News.
He has also published several commentaries in The Wall Street Journal this year, including one in June that questioned the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and one last week titled, “Vaccine Mandates Can’t Stop Covid’s Spread.”
Ladapo replaces Scott Rivkees, MD, who stepped down as Florida’s surgeon general on Monday after a 2-year contract ended.