US agencies debunk Florida surgeon general's vaccine claims

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — U.S. health agencies have sent a letter to Florida's surgeon general, warning him that his claims about COVID-19 vaccine risks are harmful to the public.

The letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was sent Friday to Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. It was a response to a letter Ladapo had written the agencies last month, expressing concerns about what he described as adverse effects from mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

Ladapo was appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021 and has attracted national scrutiny over his close alignment with the governor in opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other health policies embraced by the federal government.

Ladapo last year released guidance recommending against COVID-19 vaccinations for healthy children, contradicting federal public health leaders whose advice says all kids should get the shots.

He also has recommended against men ages 18 to 39 getting the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, claiming that an analysis by the Florida Department of Health showed an 84% increase in cardiac-related deaths.

In their letter, the federal agencies debunked the analysis' conclusion, saying that cardiovascular experts who studied the concern had concluded that the risk of strokes and heart attacks was lower in people who had been vaccinated, not higher.

More than 13 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given around the world with little evidence of adverse effects, the federal health agencies said.

“It is the job of public health officials around the country to protect the lives of the populations they serve, particularly the vulnerable. Fueling vaccine hesitancy undermines this effort," said the letter signed by FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

The Florida Department of Health on Saturday didn't respond to an email inquiry about the letter.