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Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo's new COVID-19 vaccine guidance sparks controversy, confusion

Analysis cited by surgeon general has red flags, doctors say
Posted at 10:41 PM, Oct 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-11 00:43:18-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — New coronavirus guidelines by the Florida Department of Health are causing controversy and confusion.

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo on Friday advised men between the ages of 18-39 against getting an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

"We don't know what to believe anymore," Steve Chapman, who works in West Palm Beach said. "I mean there's so many different opinions."

Ladapo's guidance said the vaccine causes an increase in cardiac-related deaths.

"It's kind of bad because they started pushing us to get it, but now they're trying for us not to get it," Sergio Mujica, a Miami resident, said.

Ladapo posted the announcement on Twitter on Friday, causing the medical community to speak out.

"It's difficult. They're asking us to essentially change our practice patterns that we had dictated — or at least informed by the CDC by national organizations — and they're turning that on its head with nothing to really back it up," Dr. Ethan Chapin, a doctor in Palm Beach County.

He and Dr. Jessica Steier, a public health doctor, said the study has major red flags that don't allow experts to support whether the findings are in fact accurate or not.

Dr. Ethan Chapin and Dr. Jessica Steier speaks about Dr. Joseph Ladapo's new COVID-19 vaccine recomendations
Dr. Ethan Chapin and Dr. Jessica Steier both disagree with Dr. Joseph Ladapo's new COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.

"To alter recommendations based on a study we don't know who conducted it, it has not been reviewed by other experts in the field," Steier said. "It was put out in the public eye without context, and if I'm a person without scientific or medical training, I'm going to be scared away from getting the vaccine."

The doctors also cite issues with who was used for the study and the sample size involved.

“Another big red flag for me is that there are only 20 people who died, so we're basing the entire conclusion on 20 deaths," Steier said. "From a statistical point of view, that's an extremely small sample size."

On Twitter, Ladapo responded to sample size critiques by tweeting "even if the sample size was half of what it is, if events cluster after an exposure, that is valuable information about causation."

"The burden of proof is on those people making those claims, and they did not properly or adequately provide any evidence of these claims, and I think the damage is already done," Steier said.

Despite the backlash, Ladapo has made more posts on Twitter supporting the study and responding to critiques, calling it "science transparency."

"The authors, whoever they may be, they excluded people who were known to have COVID infection or have died from covid itself," Steier said. "And the fact that they kind of glossed over that in this study, that could have been a contributing factor, and the author should have looked at medical records to ascertain COVID status because we know that COVID itself, the virus itself, can lead to those outcomes. That’s a major methodological flaw."

According to CDC data for Florida, 92.6% of adults have gotten at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, but only 76.7% have completed their vaccinations.

"They're really setting us back from the progress we'd made from convincing people why we should be trusted, why medical science and public health scientist are on the right track and actually have the definite space information," Chapin said. "So this is just undermining the progress we've achieved already."