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DeSantis Administration Balks at CDC’s Latest COVID Vaccine Advisory

Amid mixed messages from federal and state officials, students and faculty express concerns about the resurgence of COVID on campus.

Charles Maxwell

Sep 26, 2023

With seasonal viruses beginning to make their yearly return, the booster battle in Florida is heating up.

As always, the CDC advises citizens to stay current with annual Covid vaccine updates, booster shots and flu vaccinations to help stop the spread. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, however, advises the opposite.

In their Sept. 12 press release, the CDC recommended that everyone over six months old get boosted. “The updated vaccines should work well against currently circulating variants of COVID-19, including BA.2.86.” They also announced that the FDA has approved the shots.

The very next day, the DeSantis administration advised that Florida residents under the age of 65 skip the updated boosters. “I will not stand by and let the FDA and CDC use healthy Floridians as guinea pigs for new booster shots that have not been proven to be safe or effective,” said DeSantis in a Sept. 13 news release published after his discussion with State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo and other health experts. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis on the campaign trail. (Photo by Matt Johnson / Right Cheer via Wikimedia Commons.)

Dr. Ladapo, appointed State Surgeon General by DeSantis in Sept. 2021, was criticized earlier in 2023 for allegedly falsifying Covid reports and is known for his doubts about the vaccine's effectiveness.

The DeSantis administration's advice should come as no surprise to Floridians, as his stance on the Covid-19 “theatrics” has been consistent, although he is reportedly vaccinated.

“We gotta stop with this Covid theater,” said DeSantis in a March 2022 appearance at the University of South Florida

At the USF event, DeSantis criticized a group of students for choosing to wear masks in a viral video that garnered hundreds of thousands of views across YouTube. “It’s not doing anything,” said DeSantis regarding the students' masks, as he encouraged them to remove them.

Despite their governor’s beliefs, it seems the majority of South Florida is listening to the CDC. 

Seventy percent of Palm Beach County residents are fully vaccinated, and 82 percent have received at least one dose. Slightly higher figures are shown in Broward County, with 75 percent of residents fully vaccinated and almost 90 percent with at least one dose. 

The tensions between the CDC and DeSantis continue as a new Covid variant, Pirola, begins to make waves in Florida. 

Like previously discovered variants such as Delta and Omicron, Pirola has characteristics that could make the virus more unstable and increase rates of severity.

“The biggest concern has been the number of mutation differences,” says Dr. Scott Roberts, infectious diseases specialist, in a report by Yale Medicine. "The big question is if BA.2.86 [Pirola] will have the same exponential growth that Omicron did,” says Roberts. 

Although some Floridians may have put the pandemic in the past, health care professionals say it’s still a concern. “COVID is still spreading extremely fast,” says Vanessa Caridad of Boca Raton Baptist Health’s outpatient care department, “Social distancing and the use of face masks is still very important.”

Pirola made its way to the U.S. less than one month after its discovery in Denmark. From July 24 to August 24, the number of Covid patients in U.S. hospitals almost doubled, from 6,838 to 13,641. These numbers continue to grow, and between Sep. 3 and Sep. 9 alone, there have been 20,538 hospitalizations in the U.S.

Even under the leadership of a governor that advises skipping vaccinations, some South Florida residents are still concerned about the spike in Covid rates. 

Kevin Petrich, a journalism professor at Florida Atlantic University, sees an increase in safety precautions this school year among his colleagues. 

“For the first time since the middle of 2022, I’ve been seeing more masks on campus… more in the classroom,” says Petrich, who adds that many faculty members at FAU are still taking Covid seriously.

“I know that I’m not alone in feeling somewhat concerned,” says Petrich. “While we love having the chance to see one another again… we still have health concerns and we try to be safe.”

While a lack of vaccinations may urge some South Florida citizens to take precautions, some people are willing to take their chances. FAU Senior and Criminal Justice major Neal Thompson recalls his first year on campus and wasn’t fond of it.

“When I got to FAU in 2020, we had to wear masks everywhere,” says Thompson. “We had to wear them to get into the cafeteria, classrooms, and our dorms… we weren’t even allowed into other dorm buildings. I don’t want to deal with that again. I felt trapped.” 

Luckily for Thompson, the resurgence of a mask mandate is improbable. Based on DeSantis’s discussion with State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo on Sept.13, it doesn’t seem like the government will soon be impeding anyone’s freedom in Florida.

Dr. Ladapo said in the DeSantis administration's Sept. 13 news release, “In Florida, we will always use common sense and protect the rights and liberties of Floridians.” 

This story was produced by MediaLab@FAU, a project of Florida Atlantic University's School of Communication and Multimedia Studies. If you would like to republish this article, please credit the writer and MediaLab@FAU. The reporter can be reached at

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