Watch Florida's surgeon general nominee painfully avoid admitting vaccines work
His confirmation hearing should inspire zero confidence in anyone hoping to put the pandemic behind them.
Call me crazy, but I’m of the (apparently unpopular) opinion that the man set to become Florida’s next Surgeon General should probably have a firm grasp on vaccine efficacy in the midst of a pandemic, if he wants people to think he’s ready to lead the state through a public health crisis.
Evidently, that seemingly simple ask was a bridge too far for physician Joseph Ladapo, who is Republican Governor and COVID-enthusiast Ron DeSantis’s nominee of choice to become the Sunshine State’s top medical official.
“I would say that the question is a scientific one, and it’s one that is answered with data,” Ladapo stammered during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, when asked simply whether he believes COVID vaccines are safe and effective. “The question is informed by data on, y’know, specific outcomes and specific therapies. So that’s the scientific question.”
Only after blunt prodding did Ladapo reluctantly admit that, yes, vaccines seem to have “relatively high effectiveness” against severe COVID cases.
This is hardly inspiring — or even coherent — stuff from a man poised to assume the enormous responsibility of shepherding Florida through its latest mass COVID-19 outbreak. Although it’s also largely unsurprising, given how much Ladapo (who, it must be stressed, is somehow a licensed doctor) seems to be fundamentally opposed to any of the extremely safe, extremely well-documented measures aimed at mitigating the pandemic. This is, after all, the same man who pointedly refused to wear a mask while meeting recently with Democratic State Sen. Tina Polsky, despite her repeated asks that he cover his face, since she was recovering from cancer surgery and was about to begin radiation therapy.
“I said ‘I have a serious medical condition’’’ Polsky told The Daily Beast. “He said, ‘We can talk about that.”
Indeed, Ladapo has essentially staked his claim as a public figure by tying himself as closely as possible to DeSantis and, by extension, the right wing’s catastrophic anti-science stance.
“He is a complete believer in honesty and integrity, and so am I,” Ladapo exclaimed last year at an event touting the since-debunked effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment. In turn, the state’s GOP has backed his nomination to the hilt, praising his assessments that run counter to the overwhelming medical consensus as nevertheless “based on data.”
As state Republicans noted, Ladapo’s hearing on Wednesday ended only after the entire roster of Democrats present left — before voting — and later called it a “sham” on behalf of a “doctor of disinformation.”
The committee’s remaining Republicans easily passed Ladapo’s nomination to the full state Senate, where he will almost certainly be confirmed as Florida’s next top doctor. According to the most recent Mayo Clinic data available, the state’s COVID-19 positivity rates currently sit just about 30%.