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State opposes federal COVID booster advice

The DeSantis administration opposes COVID-19 boosters for those under 65. [Photo by Hakan Nural]

Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration recommended Sept. 13 that people under age 65 not receive newly approved COVID-19 booster shots, clashing with federal health advice.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo issued guidance that was dramatically different from a recommendation a day earlier by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says people 6 months old and older should receive updated COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC recommendation followed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of vaccines “formulated to more closely target currently circulating variants.”

The Florida Department of Health, however, says, “The most recent booster approval was granted in the absence of any meaningful booster-specific clinical trial data performed in humans.” It also contends that the “federal government has failed to provide sufficient data to support the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines.”

“Based on the high rate of global immunity and currently available data, the State Surgeon General recommends against the COVID-19 booster for individuals under 65,” the department’s guidance says. “Individuals 65 and older should discuss this information with their health care provider, including potential concerns outlined in this guidance.”

Ladapo, who appeared with DeSantis to discuss the issue, has become a nationally prominent skeptic of COVID-19 vaccines and federal policies dealing with the pandemic. DeSantis has made opposition to such measures as mask requirements and lockdowns a signature issue as he runs for president.

But federal officials are touting the updated vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

“The FDA is confident in the safety and effectiveness of these updated vaccines, and the agency’s benefit-risk assessment demonstrates that the benefits of these vaccines for individuals 6 months of age and older outweigh the risks,” the FDA says on its website.

The CDC says vaccination is the best way to prevent against COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths and to reduce the chance of what is known as long COVID.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 is always changing, and protection from COVID-19 vaccines declines over time,” the CDC says on its website. “Receiving an updated COVID-19 vaccine can restore protection and provide enhanced protection against the variants currently responsible for most infections and hospitalizations in the United States.”

As of Aug. 31, the most recent data available, 90,232 Florida residents had died of COVID-19 since 2020, according to the state Department of Health. Nearly 78% of them were age 65 or older.


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