DeSantis taps Harvard-educated physician who is ‘done with fear’ to be state surgeon general

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has named a Harvard-educated physician who has downplayed masks and COVID-19 vaccines for certain populations to be the state’s new surgeon general.

Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a researcher at the UCLA School of Medicine, said Tuesday at a news conference that getting COVID vaccines should be an individual decision, not a requirement, adding that there is “nothing special” about them. He also said he opposes mask mandates, as does DeSantis.

“He comes to Florida with really a superb background, bringing superb intellect but also I think will bring great leadership,” the GOP governor said as he introduced Ladapo..

One of Ladapo’s roles will be to continue to lead the state through the pandemic, likely in the mold of DeSantis, who has taken a less-is-more approach when it comes to mandates.

(Courtesy:  CBS4/Miami)

“We’re done with fear, it’s been something that’s been unfortunately a centerpiece of health policy in the United States ever since the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s over here – expiration date, it’s done,” said Ladapo.

The new surgeon general was also asked what the state’s role should be in promoting vaccines for residents.

“The state should be promoting good health, and vaccination isn’t the only path to that. It’s been treated almost like a religion, and that’s just senseless, right? There are lots of good pathways to health, and vaccination’s not the only one. So we support measures for good health,” he added.

“Vaccines are up to the person,” he said at another point. “There’s nothing special about them compared to any other preventive measure.”

He added those measures include “vaccination, losing weight, [and] eating more fruits and vegetables.”

“We need to respect human rights,” Ladapo continued. “People do have autonomy over their lives. It’s not OK, it’s not virtuous and it’s not right to just take away those rights from individuals.”

Ladapo has routinely pushed back on mask and vaccine mandates. In an October 2020 column for The Wall Street Journal, Ladapo said masks were a “distraction.”

“A hallmark of Covid-19 pandemic policy has been the failure of political leaders and health officials to anticipate the unintended consequences of their actions,” he wrote. “This tendency has haunted many decisions, from lockdowns that triggered enormous unemployment and increased alcohol and drug abuse, to school closures that are widening educational disparities between rich and poor families. Mask mandates may also have unintended consequences that outweigh the benefits.”

In a June piece for the paper co-written with Dr. Harvey A. Risch, a professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, the authors noted, “One remarkable aspect of the Covid-19 pandemic has been how often unpopular scientific ideas, from the lab-leak theory to the efficacy of masks, were initially dismissed, even ridiculed, only to resurface later in mainstream thinking.

“Differences of opinion have sometimes been rooted in disagreement over the underlying science. But the more common motivation has been political,” they wrote, noting further: “The risks of a COVID-19 vaccine may outweigh the benefits for certain low-risk populations, such as children, young adults and people who have recovered from COVID-19.”


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