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DeSantis Wants Grand Jury to Investigate COVID Vaccines

The Florida governor has promised to hold people accountable for committing “wrongdoing” in regard to the COVID-19 vaccinations, and has said he will ask the state Supreme Court to impanel a grand jury for the investigation.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo and Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo and Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 6, 2022.
(Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/TNS)
(TNS) — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday, Dec. 13, vowed to hold accountable people in Florida who committed “wrongdoing” in relation to COVID-19 vaccines, announcing he plans to ask the Supreme Court of Florida to impanel a statewide grand jury to investigate.

“That will come with legal processes, that we’ll be able to get more information and to bring legal accountability for those who committed misconduct,” DeSantis said of potential results of the investigations.

DeSantis’ announcement came after a virtual hour-and-a-half roundtable where scientists, people with professed vaccine-related injuries and medical professionals joined him and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo in making claims against COVID-19 Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines and their approval process.

Many of these claims have been disputed or disproven by others in the medical realm.

The grand jury will bring legal action against entities that spread misinformation, DeSantis said. His office did not respond when asked to provide more details, such as whether local doctors will be investigated, or what qualifies as misconduct.

He did not give examples of what legal actions will be taken.

“Anybody who knows anything about science is just slack-jawed,” said Kenneth Goodman, a bioethicist and director of the Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy at the University of Miami.

Goodman cited a study released Tuesday by the Commonwealth Fund that found COVID vaccines saved more than 3 million lives and prevented over 18 million additional hospitalizations in the U.S.

“Vaccines save lives,” Goodman said. “Why anybody who represents the people would want to publicly suggest otherwise is an absolute mystery. Unless, of course, he reckons there’s some political gain for it. ... That’s not good public health policy. That’s political opportunism.”

Meanwhile, Florida will begin gathering its own data on COVID-19 deaths from myocarditis, Ladapo announced.

Ladapo announced he will begin studying the incidence of myocarditis deaths within a few weeks of COVID-19 vaccination, working with medical examiners through the University of Florida.

Ladapo has conducted independent studies before and issued recommendations that incited confusion and derision by some in the scientific community.

He most recently released an analysis on COVID-19 vaccines and myocarditis in young men that was criticized by federal officials as poorly designed and unscientific. It was also criticized as lacking transparency and was not peer-reviewed.

DeSantis on Tuesday also announced the creation of a panel of researchers, called the Public Health Integrity Committee, which will “offer critical assessments” of recommendations and findings from the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Institutes of Health.

The panel will feature professors, researchers and doctors who all have vocally opposed widely held scientific consensus regarding COVID-19 vaccines. Other states have expressed interest in being involved as well, DeSantis said.

The group includes Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of health policy at Stanford University Medical School; Martin Kuldorff, a biostatistician on leave from Harvard Medical School; Dr. Joseph Fraiman, emergency medicine physician at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center; Dr. Christine Stabell Benn, a professor in global health at the University of Southern Denmark; Steven Templeton, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the Indiana University School of Medicine; Dr. Tracy Beth Hoeg, a clinical and health policy researcher at Acumen, in California; and Bret Weinstein, former professor of evolutionary biology at Evergreen State College.

“I think people want accountability,” DeSantis said. “You need to have a thorough investigation into what’s happened with the shots. We also need ways to get more data so that we can better evaluate what actually happened.”

DeSantis’ approach to COVID vaccines has made a nearly 180-degree turn in the past two years.

From December 2020 to March 2021, the governor was at the forefront of rolling out the vaccine to as many elderly and immunocompromised people as possible.

“You’re going to see some good stuff over the next couple days,” he said in December 2020, when the Trump administration was sending its initial doses to states. “Across the country, it really will ramp up.”

At one point in January 2021, DeSantis warned that if hospitals didn’t step up their vaccinations, the number of vaccines they received would be cut.

“We’re going to reduce the allotment of any hospital systems that aren’t getting the shots in the arms,” he said at the time.

But once vaccine eligibility was opened up to all ages that spring, anti-vaccine sentiment in conservative media and the Republican base started to become apparent.

After May 2021, DeSantis didn’t hold any events specifically about vaccines or boosters. He instead began holding roundtables with prominent anti-vax figures and refusing to say if he was boosted.

All the while, DeSantis and his spokespeople fervently denied he was against the vaccines, pointing to his initial promotion of them and claiming he was only against vaccine mandates.

That September, he named Ladapo as surgeon general, who immediately began questioning the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

Tuesday’s announcements come amid a drop in childhood immunizations across the state.

Multiple speakers during Tuesday’s panel said they aren’t questioning the data supporting all vaccines, just COVID-19 vaccines.

“Great, important message for any parents watching this. Do not take this information that we’re saying here about the COVID vaccines and spread that across all these other vaccines that we’ve been giving, with ... nearly no side effects,” said Fraiman, who will be on the coming Public Health Integrity Committee.

©2022 Orlando Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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