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DeSantis targets Covid vaccine manufacturers and CDC in latest anti-vaccine moves

By Eric Bradner and Kit Maher, CNN

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday asked his state’s Supreme Court to green-light an investigation of “any and all wrongdoing in Florida with respect to Covid-19 vaccines,” his latest move to cast doubt on the vaccines’ effectiveness and amplify fears about side effects.

In the petition filed with the Florida Supreme Court, the Republican governor requests the empaneling of a grand jury to investigate a broad group of entities associated with the development, distribution and promotion of the vaccines, including pharmaceutical manufacturers and their executive officers, as well as medical associations.

DeSantis also said Tuesday he was launching a public health integrity committee — a panel that would counter the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which DeSantis said “is not serving a useful function; it’s really serving to advance narratives rather than do evidence-based medicine.” The panel would assess guidance and actions from federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, US Food and Drug Administration and the CDC.

DeSantis has made Covid-19 vaccine skepticism his calling card ahead of a potential run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. The governor, who cruised to victory in his bid for a second term in November, is positioning himself to the right of former President Donald Trump, a potential rival who who was in office when the vaccine was developed.

The announcements Tuesday came at a roundtable focused on vaccines that DeSantis led. The Florida governor’s surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, during the roundtable pointed to examples of the vaccine causing myocarditis, inflammation of the heart, and said pharmaceutical companies need to provide more data to independent researchers so they can further study the side effects from vaccines.

“We will answer this question. It is a question that I am sure keeps the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna up late at night, hoping no one ever looks. But we’re going to look here in Florida,” Ladapo said during the roundtable.

Cases of myocarditis and pericarditis, inflammation of the heart and heart lining, are rare after mRNA vaccines, although they are more likely to occur among young men. The risk of heart inflammation is far greater from Covid-19 than from vaccination.

Following large clinical trials, the FDA authorized the shots for use in people 6 months and older, and CDC continues to recommend them. Experts and government agencies say the benefits far outweigh the risks as the vaccines dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from Covid-19.

An analysis released Tuesday by the Commonwealth Fund and the Yale School of Public Health estimated Covid-19 vaccines prevented more than 3.2 million deaths and 18.5 million hospitalizations in the United States and saved more than $1.15 trillion in medical costs.

DeSantis has frequently touted his decision to avoid the restrictions that many other states implemented in the early months of the pandemic.

“I kept this state open and I kept the state free, and we now have the biggest budget surplus in the history of Florida,” he said in an October debate against Democratic challenger Charlie Crist.

Early in the pandemic, DeSantis had advocated the need for vaccines. But his message has changed since mid-2021 — a shift that coincides with skepticism among conservatives who have at times booed or chided Trump for touting vaccines.

DeSantis last year moved to block cruise lines departing from Florida from requiring their customers to be vaccinated, and to block municipalities from imposing vaccine mandates. In June, DeSantis touted Florida’s status as the only state not to preorder vaccines for children younger than 5.

Florida is an outlier in that that it recommends against the Covid-19 vaccine for healthy children — which puts it at odds with CDC, recommendations from other states and Florida’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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