In an effort to “correct the associated misinterpretations and misinformation” about COVID-19 vaccines, the FDA and CDC wrote a joint response to Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, MD, after he made bogus claims that immunization poses severe risks.
Ladapo attracted widespread attention for contributing to vaccine hesitancy by spreading misinformation on COVID-19 and promoting unproven treatments including hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, but his reckless conduct caught the interest of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Dr. Ladapo’s initial Feb. 15 letter addressed to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, and FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, claimed “academic researchers throughout our country and around the globe have seen troubling safety signals of adverse events surrounding this vaccine,” even citing “life-threatening conditions” posed by COVID-19 vaccination — which he said was evidenced by a recent increase in adverse events reported in relation to the vaccine throughout the state.
He urged the agencies to “promote transparency in health care professionals to accurately communicate the risks these vaccines pose” and requested that they “protect the rights and liberties that we are endowed with, not restrict, and diminish them.”
Drs. Walensky and Califf directly refuted his claims in their letter, pointing out that serious adverse events related to COVID-19 vaccines are rare, and the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks across all age groups and save lives, according to continuously collected data.
“The claim that the increase of [Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System] reports of life-threatening conditions reported from Florida and elsewhere represents an increase of risk caused by the COVID-19 vaccines is incorrect, misleading and could be harmful to the American public,” they wrote.
In their letter, Drs. Walensky and Califf further underscored the importance of vaccination to prevent COVID-19 and fired back at Dr. Ladapo’s claims, noting misinformation like what was outlined in his letter continues to cause hesitancy in some Americans to obtain the vaccines, which can lead to much worse outcomes for some.
“Misleading people by overstating the risks, or emphasizing the risks without acknowledging the overwhelming benefits, unnecessarily causes vaccine hesitation and puts people at risk of death or serious illness that could have been prevented by timely vaccination,” they added.