TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that people who decide not to get a COVID-19 vaccine might be making the wrong choice, but defended their right to make that choice.
Speaking a day after holding a news conference to condemn vaccine mandates, DeSantis agreed that vaccines save lives.
“There are some of those folks who may make a decision that’s not ultimately the right decision for them,” DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday in Miami-Dade county. “There’s obviously probably people that have been hospitalized who probably wouldn’t have been if they had done that.”
The discussion was a follow-up to a campaign-like event Monday, where DeSantis and the two independently elected Republican Cabinet members criticized local government and federal vaccine mandates. Several Gainesville city employees spoke at the event, saying government shouldn’t force them to get vaccinated.
One speaker said vaccines change people’s RNA, which has led critics to say DeSantis is spreading anti-vaccine theories. But DeSantis said he doesn’t share the opinion.
“Honestly I don’t even remember him saying that. So, it’s not anything I’ve said. I think the data’s very clear on the vaccinations,” he said. “You’re much less likely to be hospitalized or die if you’re vaccinated.”
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines deliver a synthetic form of messenger RNA into the body, but that material is short-lived and doesn’t affect a body’s genetic material. The mRNA in the vaccines gives instructions to cells in the body to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein,” which prompts an immune response against COVID-19. The body’s cells then break down the mRNA.
“What we did yesterday was say, “OK, this is something we made available for all. We worked really hard, we were very successful in distributing it.” But to take somebody’s job away?” DeSantis said. “These people have been on the front lines for us this whole pandemic, and if someone needed their help, whether they were COVID positive or not, these guys were on the scene.”
Still, Democrats used Monday’s event to criticize DeSantis, who turned 43 Tuesday, and people opposed to vaccines.
“He is spending his birthday week undermining vaccines and complicity standing by as anti-vaxxers spew dangerous lies. DeSantis’ commitment to playing politics continues to threaten the lives of MORE Floridians as the child COVID death rate more than doubles and hospitalizations continue to rise,” the Democratic National Committee said in a news release.