Florida punishes public health official for the wrong reasons (again)

Usually, when we learn of public health officials who have been removed from their positions, the first assumption is that they have done something wrong. In Florida, this dynamic is sometimes reversed: Public health officials are occasionally thrown out for doing the right but politically inconvenient thing.

Earlier this year, for example, Raul Pino, the then director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, encouraged his team members to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. State officials soon after put him on administrative leave.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health at the time publicly asked if Pino’s encouragement was a violation of state law. (He was reinstated months later.)

Last week, the state also punished the president of the Florida section of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Miami Herald reported:

Dr. Lisa Gwynn, a University of Miami Health System pediatrician who has been a visible advocate of vaccine access for poor children, was removed Wednesday by a state-appointed board for publicly criticizing Florida’s decision to delay access to the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5. Gwynn received an email Wednesday afternoon from Susan Miller, Deputy Chief of Staff to Jimmy Patronis, Chief Financial Officer of Florida, informing her that she would be removed from her position on the Florida Healthy Kids board for doing ” some very political statements that do not reflect the CFO’s point of view.

Just a few weeks ago the public learned that 49 states had pre-ordered Covid vaccines tailored for children and Florida was the nation’s only exception. Although Republican Governor Ron DeSantis publicly defended The move, his administration, faced with significant political pushback, eventually agreed to let some health workers – pediatricians and children’s hospitals, but not county health departments – order the vaccines.

Last week, Florida surgeon general Joseph Ladapo delivered testimony to Congress and admitted that the state’s decision, which he and the Republican governor made together, could end up restricting vaccine access to some 30,000 underprivileged children. .

It was in this context that Gwynn raised concerns about state policies, leading state CFO Patronis, who is seeking re-election in the fall, to remove her from a state-appointed board.

“Frankly, we’re just trying to back things up, for fair access to the vaccine,” the pediatrician told the Herald. “I’m not a politician, I’m a pediatrician. And there is no other reason for me to do what I do other than to improve the health of the children in our state. “

Florida’s track record during the pandemic is terribly difficult to defend. After all, we’re talking about a state whose GOP governor thought it was a good idea to order a million doses of hydroxychloroquine and launched a bizarre attack when the White House ditched two Covid antibody treatments when drug makers admitted that they were ineffective against the omicron variant.

As regular readers will recall, this is DeSantis himself who has unnecessarily questioned the safety of vaccines. And he made complaints from Trump about testing. And he treated his booster status like a state secret. And he tapped a fringe figure with ridiculous ideas to serve as the state surgeon general.

But that doesn’t mean conditions in the Sunshine State can’t get worse.

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