Florida Department of Health official placed on leave after scolding staffers for ‘pathetic’ vaccination rate

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A high-ranking official with the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) has been placed on administrative leave after scolding department staffers for their “pathetic” vaccination rate.

A Jan. 4 email from Dr. Raul Pino, director of the FDOH in Orange County, resulted in paid leave for the doctor after he denounced staffers for what he perceived to be an apathetic approach to the COVID-19 vaccines.

“I am sorry, but at this point in the absence of reasonable and real reasons, it is irresponsible [not] to be vaccinated,” Pino wrote in the message. “We have been at this for two years, we were the first to give vaccines to the masses, we have done more than 300,000 and we are not even at 50%, pathetic.”

Pino noted in his email that of the 568 active Orange County department staffers, only 77 had been fully vaccinated, including booster shots.

(Video: Fox 35 Orlando)

With such a low percentage of vaxxed employees, Pino said staffers “should expect many of us to get sick” and potentially infect their families and/or clients.

“I have a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it!” Pino wrote. “The reasons can be many, but so many of us?”

The FDOH confirmed that Pino had been placed on administrative leave with pay pending further investigation as to whether any Florida laws were violated in sending the unsanctioned email from an official capacity.

“As the decision to get vaccinated is a personal medical choice that should be made free from coercion and mandates from employers, the employee in question has been placed on administrative leave, and the Florida Department of Health is conducting an inquiry to determine if any laws were broken in this case,” said FDOH spokesman Jeremy Redfern. “The Department is committed to upholding all laws, including the ban on vaccine mandates for government employees and will take appropriate action once additional information is known.”

An anonymous whistle-blower’s concerns over the email sparked the current investigation and resulted in Pino’s suspension, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

According to the Florida DOH website, Dr. Pino, a political refugee from Cuba, graduated from the University of Havana with a Doctorate in Medicine and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine with a Master of Public Health degree.

Pino had been a fixture since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, having appeared beside Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings at over 150 press briefings concerning all things COVID. His last briefing was on Dec. 28.

”Clearly vaccines are working for us … and are the solution to this crisis,” he said at the time, as county officials announced the Omicron variant was becoming the dominant strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the county’s wastewater. “The vaccine continues to be effective against the variants.”

In November, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a prohibition on vaccine mandates in the state. The law extends to both private sector and government entities, the spirit of which, at least, Dr. Pino may have violated with his email to FDOH staffers.

DeSantis chose the city of Brandon, FL to present and sign the bill, a location choice that most believe to be a clever jab at President Joe Biden and a reference to the now ubiquitous chant of “Let’s Go Brandon,” a mantra for Biden’s calamitous presidency thus far.


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