Gov. DeSantis, Surgeon General Ladapo go after COVID vaccines; request statewide grand jury

By: - December 13, 2022 5:55 pm

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo (left) and Gov. Ron DeSantis (right) held a roundtable discussion on actions against COVID-19 vaccines, among other announcements, on December 13, 2022. Credit: Screenshot/Facebook

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday attacked COVID-19 vaccines as well as federal public health guidelines and petitioned to the Florida Supreme Court to order a statewide grand jury to investigate crimes and any wrongdoing on the vaccine front.

The governor received a single shot of the COVID vaccine — Johnson & Johnson — in April of 2021, according to the Florida Phoenix, but it was not clear if he got a booster shot afterwards.

Nearly two years later, the Republican governor held a television-style roundtable discussion Tuesday in what appeared to be a studio, featuring a panel of researchers, scientists and physicians who were all skeptical about COVID shots and other safety measures. A press release sent to the media excluded the location of the event. Florida’s Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo was part of the panel.

The roundtable discussion came amid a special legislative session on property insurance, hurricane disaster relief and toll relief for motorists on Florida’s roads.

DeSantis also went on a rant about George Floyd protests during COVID-19 restrictions in the past, claiming that some health officials supported large gatherings for the protests but remained obstinate in enforcing lockdowns to fight the pandemic. Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in May of 2020, sparking outrage across the nation.

DeSantis also featured people on the panel who claimed they had adverse reactions after receiving COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.

“Governor DeSantis is leading the national charge for accountability and truthfulness about mRNA vaccines and the COVID-19 public health response,” Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ press secretary, said in an email Tuesday to the Florida Phoenix.

Public Health Integrity Committee

DeSantis announced that the state will launch its own public health panel to assess public health recommendations from federal health authorities because there “has been a lot of faith destroyed in public health.”

“Finally, and this is exciting, we’ve seen over the past few years really the bankruptcy of the public health establishment. You know, we’ve seen a lot of ridiculous partisanship. I mean I’ll never forget that after hectoring people in April of 2020 – you can’t leave your house,” DeSantis said.

“They were all upset at Florida because people were on the beach and playing golf and all this stuff. That if you left your house, you were almost like a bad person until you started to have George Floyd protests. And you had massive numbers of people that are meeting to protest. And these public health people wrote a letter, were like hundreds maybe thousands of them signed, saying ‘yes we don’t think you should be leaving your house normally, but we endorse the protests.’ ”

Overseen by Ladapo, the newly formed Public Health Integrity Committee will be charged “with assessing federal decisions, recommendations, and guidance related to public health and health care,” according to a memo emailed to the media.

DeSantis said some of the physicians and scientists who spoke at the roundtable discussion will be on the committee. He added that “the surgeon general actually has the ability to convene panels of experts to do various things.”

“In Florida, so we thought it was important, particularly me talking with other governors, to say ‘okay the CDC will say these things and then people will think because they are saying it that we have to do it,’” DeSantis said.

“And maybe not quite as much anymore because people have lost confidence, but you still see it. We had to fight it with the masking in these schools because the school districts were citing CDC as the reason why they wanted to do it, we had to come and overrule it.”

Petition for grand jury

Meanwhile, DeSantis filed a 20-page petition around 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Florida Supreme Court to assemble a grand jury to investigate crimes related to the use of COVID vaccines.

The petition states that “there are good and sufficient reasons to deem it to be in the public interest to impanel a statewide grand jury to investigate criminal or wrongful activity in Florida relating to the development, promotion, and distribution of vaccines purported to prevent COVID-19 infection, symptoms, and transmission.”

That would relate to “pharmaceutical manufacturers (and their executive officers) and other medical associations or organizations involved in the design, development, clinical testing or investigation, manufacture, marketing, representation, advertising, promotion,
labeling, distribution, formulation, packing, sale, purchase, donation, dispensing, prescribing, administration, or use of vaccines purported to prevent COVID-19 infection, symptoms, and transmission.”

“In Florida, you know, it is against the law to mislead and misrepresent when you talk about the efficacy of the drug,” DeSantis said. “So today, I am announcing a petition with the Supreme Court of Florida to impanel a statewide grand jury to investigate any and all wrongdoing in Florida with respect to COVID-19 vaccines.”

He added: “And we anticipate that we will get the approval for that. That will be something that will be impaneled, most likely in the Tampa area. and that will come with legal processes that we’ll be able to get more information and to bring legal accountability for those who committed misconduct.”

I think people want the truth and I think people want accountability. So you need to have a thorough investigation into what’s happened with these shots and we also need ways to get more data so that we can better evaluate what actually happened.”

According to the petition, “the federal government, medical associations, and other experts have created an expectation that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is an ethical or civic duty and that choosing not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is selfish and harmful to others.”

Study on COVID deaths

In a separate announcement, Surgeon General Ladapo said the state’s health department will conduct a study of COVID deaths connected to myocarditis. Ladapo had recommended against COVID shots for children, citing evidence of myocarditis following vaccinations.

Myocarditis involves inflammation of the heart muscle, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC has said that myocarditis is considered a rare event following a COVID vaccination.

“We are initiating a program here in Florida where we will be studying the incidents in surveillance of myocarditis within a few weeks of COVID-19 vaccination for people who’ve died,” Ladapo said. “This is going to be a surveillance study working with some of our medical examiners in Florida. We will also be working with the University of Florida.”

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.