WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that he is forming a new state committee to counter policy recommendations from federal health agencies – a decision that medical professionals said will further politicize medicine in the Sunshine State.

At a news conference in South Florida, DeSantis also said he is requesting a statewide grand jury investigation into alleged “crimes and wrongdoing” related to the coronavirus vaccine. He provided few details on what specifically he wants a panel to probe, but in a press release, his office noted side effects like myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation, that have been observed in rare cases.

“In Florida, you know, it is against the law to mislead and to misrepresent, particularly when you’re talking about the efficacy of a drug,” DeSantis said.

Lisa Gwynn, the past president of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said she and her colleagues were “stunned” by the announcement that DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo are forming a public health policy committee to review what experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend.

“This is just another example of politicizing health care,” said Gwynn, a pediatrician with the University of Miami Health System. “I really don’t understand where they’re going with it.”

The governor is widely considered a potential 2024 presidential candidate and has made resisting vaccine and mask requirements a central part of his platform to “keep Florida free.” He has sued the Biden administration over vaccine requirements for federal employees.


DeSantis made the announcements during a roundtable discussion featuring coronavirus vaccine skeptics. Among the speakers were doctors and researchers who had signed the Great Barrington Declaration, a statement released in 2020 that advocated against covid restrictions and in support of herd immunity. The declaration is not a scientific document, and critics have pointed out it presents no data.

The governor said the new public health committee will be led by Ladapo, who has recommended against vaccinating children for covid and questioned the efficacy of the vaccines for anyone but the elderly.

DeSantis’s press office accused pharmaceutical companies and the Biden administration of pushing the distribution of mRNA vaccines “through relentless propaganda while ignoring real – life adverse events.” Ladapo joined that criticism, and said the state would work with the University of Florida to study autopsy results in cases of “sudden deaths of individuals that received the COVID – 19 vaccine in Florida.”

“It is a question that I’m sure keeps the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna up late at night, hoping no one ever looks,” Ladapo said. “We’re going to look here in Florida.”

Large – scale observational studies on hundreds of millions of vaccine recipients have shown that while heart inflammation can be a rare side effect of the messenger RNA vaccines that disproportionately affect young men, with a small number of deaths in that age group, the protective effects of the vaccines at preventing severe covid outweigh those risks, experts at the American College of Cardiology concluded.

Gwynn was removed from the state’s Healthy Kids board of directors in June after she criticized the state’s decision to delay access to the coronavirus vaccine for children under 5. She said a grand jury panel on the vaccine has no merit.

“We know vaccines save lives. The data is very clear. Those of us in the scientific community are outraged by this,” Gwynn said. “It’s definitely eroding confidence in public health policies.”

In a statement, Pfizer spokeswoman Sharon J. Castillo said mRNA vaccines against covid “have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, tens of billions of dollars in health care costs, and enabled people worldwide to go about their lives more freely.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.