Is FL surgeon general right COVID vaccines 'nothing special' compared to other preventative measures?

Ryan Dailey / News Service Of Florida

Fact Box

  • On September 21, 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis announced a new Florida Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, who stated, “Vaccines are up to the person. There is nothing special about them compared to any other preventative measure…We support good measures for good health​​—vaccinations, losing weight, exercising, eating more fruits and vegetables, everything.” 
  • The World Health Organization released a physical activity guide on November 26, 2020, recommending 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise daily in order to combat health problems. They reported “people who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active.”
  • On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a federally-imposed vaccine mandate for 80+ million private sector and federal American workers. Employers with 100+ workers must require vaccination or weekly tests. 
  • The FDA approved the first COVID vaccine, Pfizer - BioNTech, on August 23, 2021. Based on the results of 22,000 vaccine recipients and 22,000 placebo recipients, the vaccine was 91% effective in preventing the disease. 
  • As of September 23, 2021, over half (55%) of the US population have been vaccinated with Florida ranking at 56.48% vaccinated.

Andrew (No)

According to studies, individuals who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 are 11 times more likely to die from infection than their fully vaccinated counterparts. They are also more than four times as likely to become infected in the first place and over ten times as likely to require hospitalization if the infection takes place. There simply isn’t a more effective protection against the virus unless completely isolating. Florida’s new surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, is wrong to claim otherwise. The unvaccinated are clearly more likely to catch and therefore potentially spread COVID-19, prolonging the pandemic. They are also more likely to be a burden on hospitals, a major issue in Florida. When we have such a hugely effective tool to end the pandemic, any public figure who downplays it is simply impeding progress and putting people at risk. 

It is ironic that Dr. Ladapo has come out with such negative messaging on vaccines since Governor DeSantis has so strongly opposed other measures to mitigate the pandemic. Reckless actions such as banning mask mandates in schools taken by the governor underscore the importance of vaccines. Those living in Florida would be wise to protect themselves by vaccinating, considering Governor DeSantis won’t require masks.

Finally, this ambivalence towards vaccination is so clearly political posturing that it shouldn’t be taken seriously. In downplaying the vaccines, Dr. Ladapo didn’t offer any realistic alternatives and instead went for vague statements about freedom of choice and positivity. His suggestions of eating healthy and exercising are great for general health but simply don’t rival the immediate benefits of vaccination specifically for COVID-19.

Elliot (Yes)

It’s all too easy to label even the most minute criticisms of the COVID-19 vaccine as “science denial,” but the FL surgeon general is objectively correct to describe these vaccines as “nothing special.” Firstly, the vaccines are not 100% effective. Vaccinated individuals can still transmit the disease and become infected. The Johnson and Johnson Vaccine has been linked with a protectivity rate of just 66%. That’s not much better than flipping a coin. 

Although other vaccines are reportedly more effective, numbers are constantly being revised. Once associated with a rate well over 90%, the Pfizer vaccine has now been linked to an efficacy number of just 84% due to emerging data. And New data from Los Angeles suggests that over 25% of all recent COVID infections were among fully vaccinated people. If the vaccine cannot reliably protect people from infection or transmission, it is by definition “nothing special.” 

In addition, vaccines have been linked with myocarditis and blood clotting—issues that have proven fatal in many cases. A new study out of Israel suggests that natural immunity provides more protection than vaccination. So not only are vaccines “nothing special,” but they are also potentially harmful and seem to offer less protection than our unaltered immune systems. 

Finally, it is worth highlighting the true underlying health issues that COVID-19 has exposed. We should be doing more to address widespread obesity, smoking, unhealthy diets, and other problems that make people vulnerable. The Floridian surgeon general is correct to point out the illogical fixation we seem to have on vaccination in this country. There are other factors in play. By ignoring these factors and promoting the vaccine with a single-mindedness that borders on religious zealotry, we risk everyone’s health.

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