The Corner

Health Care

DeSantis vs. Dr. Fauci

Florida governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a campaign rally at Pensacola International Airport in Pensacola, Fla., October 23, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

The latest skirmish in the blue media vs. red state wars started when Florida governor Ron DeSantis had the temerity to suggest that vaccination against COVID-19 should be a personal choice. As I wrote over on the home page, the blue media promptly rolled Dr. Anthony Fauci out to contradict the governor.

The governor was in Pensacola promoting a state program that provides monoclonal antibodies (such as Regeneron) to sick Floridians for free, a program that deserves much more attention than it has gotten. (Video of the event is here; I wrote about the promise of Regeneron and similar therapeutics almost a year ago).

The governor was answering a question about businesses requiring vaccine passports. His answer is worth reading in full. Here is a roughly corrected transcript of what he said (apologies for any mistakes):

Vaccine passports. One, I’m vaccinated. I’m offended that someone would make me show something just to go to a restaurant or just to live life. And there’s a lot of people who have already recovered from Covid who do have immunity. You actually are saying, me with a Johnson & Johnson shot can go in, but someone who’s recovered from Covid and probably a stronger immunity, they can’t go in? I’m sorry. That is anti-science.

I also don’t want two classes of citizens. We have some people in our communities who just made the decision, [that] this is something that they’re not going to do. So what, you’re going to write them out of society? They’re not going to be able to go show their face? And some of these places that have vaccine passports – because the little kiddies are ineligible for vaccine — some of them are saying if you’re under 12, don’t even come in.

And it’s also the case that as much as I am happy to see vaccinated people get good protection against hospitalization, it definitely has been good, the fact is it is spreading regardless of vaccination. That’s just the reality. The theory behind the vaccine passport is: Okay, if you force everyone to have it in order to kind of live in society, then you’ll be able to basically just nuke Covid. We know that that’s not the case.  You know [you have] very, very high vaccination rates, you still have big waves. So, it just doesn’t make any sense.

And my view is, we got to protect people’s ability to live their lives. I don’t want a biomedical security state in which are we constantly having to do this just to be able to live everyday life. At the end of the day, the vaccines have helped people ward off severe illness. And we obviously worked very hard to distribute it. At the end of the day, though, it is what somebody, it’s about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn’t impact me or anyone else because we’ve seen the data on this. And so the theory behind it, I think has gone totally up in smoke.

And I also just think that there’s been huge mistakes made along the way with some of these authorities lecturing people about this. I can tell you there’s a lot of folks that when they hear that uh if they’re on the fence that pushes them in the other direction, that is not the way that you do it. And what I try to do is just give the data, give it honestly, I’m not going to sugarcoat it and I’m not going to tell somebody something that that is not true based on the data, just because I want them to behave in a certain way.

A lot of these folks, they tell these noble lies because they want you to behave in a certain way. And so they don’t give the whole truth.

Then, referring to the state’s ongoing efforts to publicize the availability of monoclonal antibodies as an early treatment for potentially severe COVID-19 disease, the governor says:

You look at the fact that we’re even having to do this with this early treatment. That should not — we’re happy to do because we want to help — but this should have been something that was screamed from the rooftops from HHS and CDC since last December. Can you imagine if 100 percent of Americans knew that this was something that was available? You know how many people we would have kept out of the hospital? You know how many people that would not have died over the last nine months? That’s just a fact.

And we’re obviously correcting that in Florida and we’re actually helping other states too, because we put a lot of emphasis on it. You know, I look at that and I wonder why if you have an effective treatment — I mean this treatment was used on an experimental basis to the President of the United States in October and very effectively — why would you not be talking about it? And I think one of the reasons that … some didn’t think that they should talk about it is because they didn’t want people to think, okay, maybe you don’t need to get vaccinated, maybe you just get the treatment. And they worry that people would take that message. And my view is, you know, we’ve never said it’s either-or. We think that they complement each other. But if someone does do that, that’s not a reason to not give them the full information. That’s not a reason [not] to provide this, you know, for everybody.

So, you know, I think some of the stuff with the vaccine passport, I mean it’s an overreach. It’s too intrusive. And at the end of the day, my philosophy is, as governor, my job is to protect your individual freedom. My job is not to protect corporate freedom. That is not what I’m here for. I mean, we have a good business climate, we have everything, but this idea that businesses can just do whatever they want and invade your privacy and doing all that. No, I’m not signing up for that. I’m signing up for protecting your freedom and making sure we have a society in Florida where people can make the best decisions for themselves and for their families.

And that’s what we’re doing by protecting against these mandates and making sure that that’s done based on what people believe is best for them and their families, but not something that’s imposed either by government or in some respects, in some instances by very, very powerful private entities.

Mario Loyola is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the director of the Environmental Finance and Risk Management Program of Florida International University, and a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute of George Mason University. The opinions expressed in this column are his alone.

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