Florida Surgeon General Appointed by Ron DeSantis Goes Against Science amid Florida Measles Outbreak

Dr. Joseph Ladapo — whose anti-vax op-eds earned him a seat in DeSantis' administration — told parents that it's okay to send their unvaccinated children to school, defying CDC isolation guidelines

Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo
Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo

Florida's top public health official is bucking CDC guidelines amid a rise in measles cases at a Ft. Lauderdale school, telling parents in a letter that it's up to them whether or not their child gets vaccinated, or whether an unvaccinated child stays home from school after getting exposed.

In a letter sent to parents last week, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo said that "a cluster of measles cases" had been identified at Manatee Bay Elementary.

"When measles is detected in a school, it is normally recommended that individuals without history of prior infection or vaccination stay home for up to 21 days. This is the period of time that the virus can be transmitted," Ladapo acknowledged in the letter, as reported by The Washington Post.

But, he continued, "due to the high immunity rate in the community, as well as the burden on families and educational cost of healthy children missing school, DOH is deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance."

"This recommendation may change as epidemiological investigations continue," he added.

Related: Florida's Surgeon General Swiftly Criticized for Saying 'Healthy Kids' Shouldn't Get COVID Vaccine

Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Florida's surgeon general under Gov. Ron DeSantis
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Florida's surgeon general under Gov. Ron DeSantis

Ladapo has been criticized for his stance on vaccines in the past, and in 2022, announced he would issue guidance making Florida "the first state to officially recommend against the COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children."

Ladapo and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who appointed him to the role — attempted to justify this position by citing concerns about the potential health risks of the COVID-19 vaccine, despite multiple studies proving that it is entirely safe for children. The Centers for Disease Control urges people to get vaccinated since the virus itself poses a much larger health risk than the vaccine.

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Ladapo and DeSantis had pointed to the risk of getting myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, from the vaccine. However, the CDC has said that cases of myocarditis "have rarely been reported, especially in adolescents and young adult males within several days after" vaccination. Additionally, the few who developed it have generally "responded well to medicine and rest and felt better quickly."

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The Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics called Ladapo's announcement about the COVID vaccine "irresponsible."

"The COVID-19 vaccine is our best hope for ending the pandemic," said chapter President Dr. Lisa Gwynn in a statement issued at the time. "The Surgeon General's comments today misrepresent the benefits of the vaccine, which has been proven to prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and long-term symptoms from COVID-19 in children and adolescents, including those who are otherwise healthy."

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