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The state of Florida is being overwhelmed with numerous disease outbreaks due to fraudulent or unproven medical practices taking the place of scientific methods.
Science

The state of Florida is being overwhelmed with numerous disease outbreaks due to fraudulent or unproven medical practices taking the place of scientific methods.

In 2022, just before Joseph Ladapo took office as Florida’s surgeon general, The New Yorker published a brief piece introducing the doctor who has doubts about vaccines and emphasizing his support for the utilization of leeches in promoting public health.

It was meant as satire, a playful mocking of the Harvard-educated doctor for his unconventional medical opinions. These include a strong conviction that the Covid vaccine, intended to save lives, is actually a product of evil forces, and that simply opening a window is the best remedy for inhaling harmful gases from stoves.

However, there is currently a preventable measles outbreak occurring in Florida, which has left medical professionals to wonder if fraudulent practices have become accepted as official health policies in the state with the third-highest population.

“Amidst the spread of a highly contagious illness in an elementary school in Broward County, Ladapo, a follower of Florida’s far-right governor Ron DeSantis, sent a message to parents stating that it was acceptable to still send unvaccinated children to school.”

Dr. Robert Speth, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences with over 40 years of research experience at Nova Southeastern University in south Florida, stated that the surgeon general is simply a puppet for Ron DeSantis and will parrot whatever he is told to say.

“He prioritizes political rhetoric over medical expertise, which greatly harms the people of Florida. As someone responsible for safeguarding public health, he is instead doing the opposite.”

Ladapo suggests that parents or guardians make the decision about their child’s school attendance, but this goes against the CDC’s recommendation of a 21-day quarantine for those without prior infection or immunization.

This aligns with Ladapo’s past unconventional statements regarding vaccines, which health experts consider a significant threat to the well-being of Florida residents. These statements include advising against mRNA Covid-19 booster shots, citing baseless conspiracy theories claiming the shots modify human DNA and may lead to cancer. Dr. Ashish Jha, a former coordinator for the White House’s Covid response, dismisses these claims as “scientific nonsense.”

However, although measles was eliminated in the US in 2000, the recent increase in cases and Ladapo’s actions have sparked a new wave of sarcastic comments. The Orlando Sentinel’s headline read “Florida: Where Visitors Catch More Than Just Sunshine,” while the Tampa Bay Times remarked on the irony of Florida’s regression to outdated beliefs with their headline “Measles Outbreak: A Perfect Fit for Florida’s Return to the 1950s.”

The negative reaction caused the Florida Department of Health to release “clarifying information” this week. This information reaffirmed that the stay-at-home suggestion had indeed been communicated to parents at Manatee Bay Elementary School. The department also tried to shift the blame to the media for sharing inaccurate information and turning this outbreak into a political issue.

Officials from the department restated the statement in a later update.

Grant Kemp, the deputy press secretary, stated that the media has continuously promoted the belief that Dr. Ladapo disregarded scientific evidence in his recent letter. However, in truth, Dr. Ladapo utilized existing data and information on immunity rates to guide policy choices that affect Manatee Bay Elementary.

At Manatee Bay Elementary, 97% of students have received at least one dose of the MMR immunization. There are currently outbreaks happening in several states and the national measles immunization rate is lower than 92%.

Ladapo has previous experience with reporting inaccurate information, as he was discovered to have personally altered data in a 2022 study of Covid-19 vaccines. This resulted in false claims about a heightened risk of heart problems or death among young men.

According to Speth and many other medical professionals, Ladapo’s consistent denial of the clear advantages of immunization and vaccination is indicative of a larger political attack from the conservative movement that could have serious consequences.

Its origins, Speth believes, lie in a long-discredited study by the disgraced British former doctor Andrew Wakefield falsely tying the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism, but which was enthusiastically embraced by anti-vaxxers and other extremists in the US.

According to the speaker, the Wakefield study was a significant deception, yet a considerable portion of the population still believes in it. This belief is exploited by politicians who use it to pander to people’s fears about the risks of vaccinations.

The political party known as Republicans is in opposition with medical research, which is an unfortunate and devastating situation. However, I can’t help but feel like Cassandra, warning about the danger to public health. We can anticipate an increase in the number of deaths among children from preventable infectious diseases due to a lack of vaccination.

According to DeSantis, Ladapo is a “superstar” and has replaced Scott Rivkees, who was dismissed by the governor for going against his beliefs on social distancing and wearing masks during the Covid-19 crisis.

Ladapo joined the ranks of the governor’s outspoken supporters, advocating against the use of masks, vaccines, and lockdown measures. He also held a prominent position in Frontline Doctors of America, a fringe group of radical doctors promoting the use of drugs like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the virus.

In 2022, Simone Gold, the founder of the group, was sentenced to 60 days in prison for participating in the Capitol riot on January 6th.

In addition, Ladapo was one of the people who signed the Great Barrington Declaration, a public letter advocating for a herd immunity strategy for Covid, which supposedly had 15,000 signatures from scientists and medical experts. However, the list also included fake names like Dr Johnny Bananas, Dr Person Fakename, and Dr I P Freely.

Florida Democrats argue that Ladapo’s management of the measles epidemic further demonstrates their belief that he is unfit for his job, which earns him over $600,000 annually. His salary is split between the state and the University of Florida, where he was offered tenure as a motivation to accept the position.

State senator Tina Polsky, who has been one of Ladapo’s strongest opponents, expressed her disappointment over the preventable nature of the situation.

During times of emergency, it is essential to have capable and calm individuals leading the department of health. However, in our current post-Covid crisis, the person in charge is refusing to adhere to accepted scientific standards.

Claiming that the measles vaccine is unnecessary to eliminate the disease is highly unreasonable, as it is precisely what has kept it absent from our nation. Refusing to vaccinate will result in severe consequences, causing fear and disrupting educational opportunities for children. Such consequences will have negative effects of their own.

Source: theguardian.com