Florida advises against new Covid-19 shot as hospitalizations increase

The CDC says most Americans should get the vaccine
Florida advises against new Covid-19 shot as hospitalizations increase
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 4:24 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2023 at 12:14 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV/Gray Florida Capital Bureau) - Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo advised most residents not to get the updated Covid-19 vaccine that was approved by the FDA and CDC this week.

The direction from Ladapo contradicts recommendations from the FDA and CDC, which encourage anyone 6 months and older to get the vaccine.

At the same time, a new report shows Florida is leading the country with new Covid-19 hospitalizations. Data available on the CDC website showed 37 counties are now in the medium range as of September 2, which is the latest data available.

A CDC map shows COVID-19 hospital admissions levels in the U.S. by county.
A CDC map shows COVID-19 hospital admissions levels in the U.S. by county.(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

While Florida Hospital Association president Mary Mayhew did not comment on whether or not residents should get the shot, she did provide context on the rising cases in Florida. Mayhew said Monday that the numbers are still low.

“During the Delta surge, we had 17,000 hospitalizations. We have 1,800 today in the entire state of Florida,” the FHA president said.

Mayhew said most cases are mild, but that doesn’t mean people need to let their guard down.

“We’ve got to remember, we remain always very focused on those who are vulnerable, our elderly and individuals with underlying medical conditions,” Mayhew said.

The advisory from the surgeon general comes as updated vaccines become available to Americans. The shots are expected to be protective against Covid-19′s worst consequences rather than mild infection. It’s part of a shift to treat fall updates of the Covid-19 vaccine like the yearly flu shot.

But Ladapo urged Floridians under 65 to skip the shot. In a press release from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office, the recommendation was based on a lack of “evidence of benefit or efficacy” to the shot or prior shots. Those statements oppose research and statements from federal health authorities including the CDC that say the Covid-19 vaccines are effective.

The Florida attorney general said the flu and Covid-19 shouldn’t be treated the same.

“It’s a sleight of hand to misdirect and make analogies to influenza because it is a completely different phenomenon,” Ladapo said.

Stanford researcher Dr. Jay Bhattacharya said during a virtual round table with the state health department Wednesday he’d like to see more research before making Covid shots yearly.

“With the flu shot, we have decades of experience understanding the safety profiles, decades of the experience of the ethnicity of the flu shot when it works and when it doesn’t work. We don’t have this with this,” Bhattacharya said.

As Covid-19 cases increase, there won’t be any more mask or vaccine requirements in DeSantis signed a law this year that bans those mandates.

Federal officials have said the new Covid-19 shots still will be free to most Americans through private insurance or Medicare. The CDC is working with health departments, clinics and certain pharmacies to temporarily provide free shots for people without insurance.