In a letter sent on Friday, Mayor Dan Gelber of Miami Beach laid into presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, saying the governor’s advice to Florida residents under 65 to avoid the newly available COVID vaccine is “entirely based on the politics of the Republican primary and not on what’s best for [his] Florida constituents.”
“I have seen politicians do many things I thought were expedient, political, or simply gutless,” Gelber wrote to DeSantis, “These days, people expect as much. But urging your residents not to avail themselves of the one thing that can protect them from severe illness and death in order to revive your struggling campaign, is all of those things and worse. It is simply craven.”
On Sept. 13, DeSantis and Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo told Floridians the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration were trying to use them “as guinea pigs” to test the new COVID vaccine that “has not been proven to be safe or effective.” Breaking with the advice of the White House and federal agencies, DeSantis advised residents of the state under the age of 65 to avoid getting the new shot.
His controversial advice comes during an uptick in COVID infections nationwide. Florida currently has the highest rates for COVID-related hospitalization in the nation, according to CDC data.
In response, CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen called DeSantis’ and Ladapo’s comments “dangerous.”
“Vaccination against COVID-19 remains the safest protection for avoiding hospitalizations, long-term health challenges, and death,” Cohen said in a statement, “They are proven safe; they are effective, and they have been thoroughly and independently reviewed by the FDA and CDC.”
Gelber said he wrote his latest letter to DeSantis because he believes the governor “could give crap about Floridians,” and he wants the public to get their medical advice from doctors and the CDC, not from DeSantis.
“I would say it’s a joke, except it’s tragic. There’s no question people will die,” Gelber said of DeSantis’s actions. “He’s not doing it for a health reason, he’s doing it for a political reason. I feel like I’m screaming into a storm because his megaphone is so much bigger than everyone else’s.”
Gelber, a Democrat and longtime Florida lawmaker, said DeSantis’ breed of politics is unlike any he’s encountered.
“It’s craven as an elected official to not care about your resident’s health and give them terrible advice because you have another agenda that has nothing to do with them,” Gelber said.
“When people’s health and lives are at stake, it’s really important for public officials to set aside the partisanship,” Gelber continued, “No one in Florida is on the same page any more.”
A spokesperson for Gov. DeSantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.