Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced on Tuesday a new surgeon general for the state who emphasizes protecting individual rights over community-based precautions.
Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a Harvard-trained doctor and UCLA researcher, will oversee Florida’s Health Department, replacing Dr. Scott Rivkees, a pediatrician whose last day was Monday. Rivkees was noticeably absent from the public over the last year.
Ladapo has openly challenged the assertions of many health experts and officials, and has written national op-eds in the Wall Street Journal opposing vaccine mandates.
In one WSJ op-ed from June written with another colleague, Ladapo cited incidents from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) to conclude that “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.” VAERS is not intended to evaluate whether vaccines are the cause of any adverse events.
When asked about his position on the vaccine, Ladapo said fear of vaccines was bred by “a climate of mistrust.”
“That was a direct result of scientists, my colleagues, some of them, taking the science and basically misrepresenting it to fit their agendas,” Ladapo said. “This idea that people don’t get to make their own decisions on issues of health is wrong and it’s not something that we’re going to be about.”
“The state should be promoting good health, and vaccination isn’t the only path for that,” Ladapo said. “It’s been treated almost like a religion, and that’s just senseless.”
Ladapo said the state should be promoting several health measures including “vaccination, losing weight, exercising more [and] eating more fruits and vegetables.”
Ladapo will be a key figure in Florida’s approach to masking in schools, which has been banned by DeSantis.
Last week a court blocked the deposition of the previous state surgeon general, Rivkees, as attorneys for school boards and the NAACP attempted to depose Rivkees, whose previous statements on masking in schools was contradictory to the ruling he signed under DeSantis.