Florida is overwhelmed by epidemics as quackery replaces science | Florida

Shortly before Joseph Ladapo was sworn in as Florida’s surgeon general in 2022, the New Yorker published a short column welcoming the vaccine-skeptical doctor to his new role and highlighting his advocacy for use of leeches in public health.

This was, of course, satire, a teasing of the Harvard-trained doctor for his unorthodox medical views, which include an unwavering belief that life-saving Covid shots are the solution. work of the deviland that opening a window is the preferred treatment for inhaling toxic fumes from gas stoves.

But now, with an entirely preventable measles outbreak spreading across Florida, medical experts are questioning whether quackery has actually become official health policy in the nation’s third-most populous state.

As the highly contagious disease raged through a Broward County elementary school, Ladapo, a politically appointed acolyte of far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, wrote to parents saying it was perfectly acceptable for parents to continue sending their children unvaccinated.

“The surgeon general is Ron DeSantis’ lapdog and says whatever DeSantis wants him to say,” said Dr. Robert Speth, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Nova Southeastern University in South Florida, with more of four decades of research experience.

“His statements are more political than medical and it does a great disservice to the citizens of Florida. This is someone whose job is to protect public health, and he’s doing the exact opposite.”

Ladapo’s advice entrusting parents or guardians with the decision regarding school attendance directly contradicts the official recommendation of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which calls for a 21-day quarantine period for anyone without a history of infection or vaccination.

This is also consistent with Ladapo’s previous maverick proclamations on vaccines that medical professionals say pose an unacceptable danger to the health of Florida residents. They include official guidelines to avoid Covid-19 mRNA boosters, based on easily disproven conspiracy theories that the injections alter human DNA and can potentially cause cancer – “scientific nonsense” of the The opinion of Dr. Ashish Jha, former coordinator of the Covid response at the White House.

Meanwhile, while measles has been eradicated in the United States since 2000, the resurgence of the disease, coupled with Ladapo’s latest mishap, has sparked a new round of derisive comments. Florida: Come for the sun, leave with the measles, said the Orlando Sentinel; “Measles? So it’s a mark for the descent of Florida in the 1950s,” said the Tampa Bay Times.

The negative reaction prompted the Florida Department of Health to release “clarification of information” this week, in which he insisted that the stay-at-home recommendation had actually been given to parents at Manatee Bay Elementary School, and attempted to blame the media for “reporting false information and politicized this epidemic.

Ministry officials reiterated that assertion in a subsequent statement.

“The media has continued to peddle the narrative that Dr. Ladapo defied science in his recent letter. In fact, he used available data and immunity rates to make policy decisions impacting Manatee Bay Elementary School,” said Deputy Press Secretary Grant Kemp.

“97% of students at Manatee Bay Elementary School have received at least one dose of the MMR vaccine. Outbreaks are occurring in several states and the national measles vaccination rate is less than 92%.

Besides, reporting false information is something that Ladapo himself knows well. It turned out that he had personally manipulated data in a 2022 study of Covid-19 vaccines to falsely claim they posed a high risk of heart disease or death in young men.

At Speth, and many other medical expertsLadapo’s risky succession of positions denying even the most obvious benefits of immunization and vaccination is a symptom of a broader political attack from the right, which carries deadly potential.

Its origins, Speth believes, lie in a long-discredited study by disgraced former British doctor Andrew Wakefield falsely linking the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism, but which was adopted with enthusiasm by anti-vaccines and other extremists around the world. WE.

“The Wakefield study was a blatant fraud, but today up to 25% of our population believes it, and opportunistic politicians are taking advantage of this sentiment to tell people what they want to hear about the danger of vaccines “, did he declare.

“Republicans are at war with medical science, and it’s a horrible tragedy. But I feel like Cassandra, talking about the threat to public health. We’re going to start seeing many more children die from infectious diseases that could be prevented if they were vaccinated. »

Ladapo was hailed a “superstar” by DeSantis, who sidelined then dumped his predecessor Scott Rivkees for contradicting the governor’s stance on social distancing and face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ladapo has become a strong supporter of the governor’s anti-mask, vaccine and lockdown executive orders; and was a prominent member of Frontline Doctors of America, a fringe group of radical doctors who advocated ineffective drugs such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as a cure for the virus.

The group’s founder, Simone Gold, received a 60 day prison sentence in 2022 for participating in the January 6 riot at the Capitol.

Additionally, Ladapo was a signatory to the Great Barrington Declaration, an open letter claiming to have been signed by 15,000 scientists and medical professionals calling for a herd immunity approach to Covid, but which included a multitude of fraudulent names, including Dr. Johnny Bananas, Dr. Person. Fakename and Dr IP freely.

Florida Democrats say Ladapo’s handling of the measles outbreak is yet another reason they believe he is unfit for a job in which he earns more than $600,000 a year, paid at almost equal shares by the state and the University of Florida, where he was tenured. pulpit as an incentive to come.

“The sad thing is, this is completely avoidable,” said state Sen. Tina Polksy, who has been one of Ladapo’s staunchest critics.

“In times of crisis, we need the most reasonable people to lead this health department, and now we are in our next crisis after Covid and we have someone who does not want to follow accepted scientific guidelines in charge.

“To claim that the vaccine is not necessary to eradicate measles is completely illogical, because it is the reason why it has disappeared from our country. This will have devastating consequences, it will scare many people and children will no longer be in school, which will have its own negative consequences.

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