Florida Senate confirms surgeon general, but every Democrat voted against the doctor

By: - May 4, 2023 1:04 pm

FL Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

The GOP-controlled Florida Senate on Thursday confirmed Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo for another term as the state’s top doctor, though all Democrats in the Senate voted against Ladapo.

State Sen. Tina Polsky, of South Florida, pleaded to her colleagues to oppose the confirmation because of serious concerns about Ladapo’s “scientific integrity.” But the confirmation went through with a party-line vote of 27-12.

“This isn’t about how you feel about COVID,” she told colleagues on Thursday before the confirmation vote. “This isn’t about how you feel about masks. This isn’t about how you feel about me. This isn’t about how you feel about the vaccines, the COVID vaccine or any other vaccines. This is about how you feel about scientific integrity and what the role is of a top doctor of our state.”

Polsky referenced a scientific study that has created concerns about a Florida Department of Health (DOH) report last year that purportedly found an increased risk of myocarditis among men aged 18 to 49 who’d received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ladapo announced last October that based on that report, young men should not get the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

But the Tampa Bay Times reported last month that the Department of Health report omitted key data, contained in earlier drafts, that showed that the danger of cardiac-related death from getting COVID was much worse than from getting the vaccine. The newspaper obtained the drafts through public records requests.

POLITICO recently reported that a draft of the study provided by the FDOH revealed that the report initially said that there was no significant risk associated with using the COVID vaccines for young men, but that Ladapo “replaced that language to say that men between 18 and 39 years old are at high risk of heart illness from two COVID vaccines that use mRNA technology.”

“Think about your Hippocratic oath to do no harm,” Polsky said. “Do you think this study did harm? Do you think this study convinced even one young man to not get the COVID vaccine? How dangerous to lie on a study under the name of the Florida Department of Health that this man is charged to run.”

When Gov. Ron DeSantis selected Ladapo to serve the state’s Surgeon General in September of 2021, he was known to be a skeptic of COVID-19 vaccines. As the Phoenix previously reported, Ladapo had endorsed the use of numerous chemicals and drugs not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating COVID.

Polsky has been among Ladapo’s toughest critics in the Legislature. Her initial meeting with him made national news in 2021 after he refused to wear a mask in her office when she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. But she told her Senate colleagues Thursday that her history with the surgeon general shouldn’t be a factor in listening to what she had to say.

“Do you feel, honestly in your heart, that your 550,000 constituents will be in the best hands, or do you feel what that he will do whatever either the governor wants or what he wants because it’s contrary to popular medical opinions,” Polsky said. “It’s contrary to the CDC. It’s contrary to President Biden. Is that how we should be deciding public health emergencies?”

Also on Thursday, the Florida Senate confirmed Jason C. Weida as secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration. The vote was 36-3.

In committee hearings during the session, some senators raised accusations about whether Weida had shaped a key report related to blocking certain treatments for transgender people under the Medicaid program. Weida acknowledged to senators that there is a pending lawsuit over the gender affirming care treatments.

Sen. Polsky had said that she was uncomfortable confirming Weida because of his alleged statements in the past related to LGBTQ or anti-trans people.

Phoenix Editor Diane Rado contributed to the report.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.