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Ladapo begins confirmation process as Surgeon General

Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Florida Surgeon General-Designate
Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Florida Surgeon General-Designate

After a walkout by Democratic members, a Senate committee Wednesday signed off on the confirmation of state Surgeon General nominee Joseph Ladapo.

“We don’t feel that we are getting any answers met. We know that there is a long agenda today with a lot of bills. So, the Florida Senate Democrats in this committee now are going to abstain, walk out, and come back when we have more business,” said Minority Leader Lauren Book, who led the Democratic exodus out of the Senate Health Committee meeting, before the vote to confirm Ladapo.

Democrats peppered Ladapo with questions about issues such as his views on COVID-19 vaccinations, where Book asked variations of one question, seeking a “yes or no” answer.

“Do the vaccines work, against preventing COVID-19,” said Book. “Yes, or no?”

“What I would say is that the most commonly-used vaccines — the Pfizer product and the Moderna — have been shown to have relatively high effectiveness for the prevention of hospitalization and death; and over time, relatively low protection from infection.”

Ladapo has been a controversial figure since Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him in September as surgeon general. During her allotted time, Book gave it another try.

“Scientifically, do the vaccines work against COVID-19, yes or no?” she asked again.

“Yes or no questions are not that easy to find in science; I think I have better clearity [sic] about your question at this point,” Ladapo responded.

Much of the controversy has centered on Ladapo’s views on handling the pandemic, including rejecting vaccination and mask requirements. After the vote, he told reporters that he thought he responded to the questions raised by lawmakers.

“They reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, and I stated some other things related to it,” said Ladapo. “I don’t think the objective of public health is coercion; it’s education and I think it’s to allow people to make choices so they don’t feel coerced.”

Ladapo will also need approval from the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee before he could go to the full, Republican-controlled Senate for a confirmation vote.