LAKELAND, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday took aim at the federal government and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for their handling of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause, as well as what he called "horrific" and "problematic" government messaging when it comes to COVID-19 safety.
"We're not helped in this regard by the behavior of some of these public health people, particularly in the federal government," DeSantis said during a news conference in Lakeland. "How they handled the J&J, I think was a huge mistake."
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The governor announced earlier this week that Florida has stopped administering the J&J COVID-19 vaccine until further notice.
It comes after the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended a pause in the use of the J&J vaccine "out of an abundance of caution" after receiving reports that six people developed "rare and severe" blood clots after getting their shots.
DeSantis said Friday that public confidence in the J&J vaccine has "plunged" since the federal government recommended the pause, adding that it "could've been handled better."
"If you're gonna do that, you could've done that in a way that was not gonna cause a lot of people to lose confidence," DeSantis said without elaborating further.
According to federal health officials, all six cases of the "rare and severe" blood clots occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 48, and the symptoms surfaced six to 13 days after the inoculations.
The CDC and FDA are now investigating the blood clot cases to determine if they're related to the J&J COVID-19 vaccine or a separate underlying health condition.
During Friday's news conference, DeSantis also criticized the federal government and public health officials for what he called "horrific" messaging regarding coronavirus safety, especially when it comes to the vaccine.
"I also think it's a problem where you're telling people to get vaccine, and yet people who have been vaccinated for months are wearing two masks," DeSantis said. "If the vaccine is effective, why would you need to be wearing two masks?"
The governor was referring to CDC guidelines which recommend "people wear masks in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people."
Many public health officials, including Palm Beach County health director Dr. Alina Alonso, are encouraging people to continue wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, and avoiding crowded places, even if you've gotten vaccinated.
"Unfortunately, I think the message has been very muddled. You tell people, oh yeah, yeah, this is important, go get the vaccine. But then you still gotta social distance, you can't do this, you can't do that," DeSantis said. "My view is, if you get a vaccine, the vaccines are effective, you're immune. And so act immune."
A Martin County doctor also spoke to WPTV.
"Considering the amount of immunizations we've had, the benefits still outweigh any potential risk," said Dr. Lyssette Cardona, Chair of Infectious Diseases at Cleveland Clinic Martin Health. "But it is important to take a pause and take a look at all of the data and make sure the vaccine continues to remain safe."
Palm Beach County on Thursday extended its face mask mandate until May 18, meaning people must wear face coverings inside businesses, government buildings, "public places where social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines is not possible or not being practiced," as well as Palm Tran transit services.
"I do think, in my opinion, that there will be at some point in the near future, certainly not within the next 30 days, but at some point in the near future, we will repeal that mandate in this county," Mayor Dave Kerner said during a news conference.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is currently the only vaccine in America that requires one dose. COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna both require two doses, however, test results have shown they are more effective than the J&J shot.
The governor added that he expects a "surplus" of the COVID-19 vaccine over the next few weeks, to the point where supply will eventually outpace demand.