TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis’ hand-picked surgeon general on Wednesday warned healthy adults under the age of 65 against taking a new Covid-19 booster, contradicting the Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration.

Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, speaking during a roundtable that DeSantis hosted, said that after three years of Covid, most healthy people don’t need to worry about getting infected from a virus that has killed more than 1 million people across the country. Ladapo is a well-known vaccine skeptic who has claimed some shots pose risks to healthy young men.

“With the amount of immunity that’s in the community — with virtually every walking human being having some degree of immunity, and with the questions we have about safety and about effectiveness, especially about safety, my judgment is that it’s not a good decision for young people and for people who are not at high risk at this point in the pandemic,” he said.

Previous guidance by Ladapo about Covid-19 vaccine safety has been widely rejected by the medical community. Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University, said Wednesday it appeared that Ladapo and the others at the roundtable were selectively highlighting data to show problems with the new boosters.

“In general, they’re cherry-picking data and facts and science,” Salmon said. “And I think that they’re there, because they don’t want to recommend this vaccine for Florida.”

Jason Salemi, an epidemiology professor at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, said there are plenty of credible studies showing that healthy people under the age of 65 are still at risk of death from Covid-19.

“Equipping ourselves with and implementing mitigation measures can result in considerably less severe illness, less long Covid, and less mortality, all with little impact on our day-to-day lives,” Salemi wrote in an email. “So, there is clearly a need.”

The CDC and FDA this week gave the green light for two new vaccine boosters from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which are recommended for people ages 6 months and up.

The new boosters use mRNA technology, which Ladapo has long asserted doesn’t have studies backing its safety. In his new guidance, Ladapo wants doctors to inform patients about alleged risks found in studies.

“They should not be misled into thinking the clinical trials of the boosters are indicating that they’ll benefit,” Ladapo said.

DeSantis built his national reputation on bucking the medical establishment and opening Florida earlier than many states. As his campaign for president struggles to gain traction, DeSantis has attempted to capitalize on an uptick in Covid-19 cases — and the FDA approving a new round of boosters — by criticizing familiar targets like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s former top infectious disease expert.

Covid also provides DeSantis an opportunity to separate himself from former President Donald Trump, who is leading all Republican presidential hopefuls by wide margins. Last week, he attacked the “Trump-Fauci White House” in a social media post accusing the Coronavirus Task Force under Trump of demanding Florida impose mask mandates.

Conservatives and others praised the governor for opening schools to in-person learning and fighting against mask and vaccine mandates. But DeSantis and Ladapo’s Covid policies, especially around vaccines, have been heavily criticized by medical experts and others.

Last year, DeSantis staunchly opposed providing vaccines to young children after Florida came under fire for being the only state not to order fresh vaccine doses for children ahead of the federal government’s decision to allow vaccines for kids under 5.

DeSantis this year also urged Florida’s GOP-led Legislature to approve a handful of Covid-19-related bills, including measures to permanently ban school mask mandates and bar businesses from firing employees who don’t get vaccinated.

Ladapo, a well-known vaccine skeptic, has gone even further. Last year, he warned young men against taking the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines, suggesting that they increase the risk of cardiac-related deaths. POLITICO later revealed that Ladapo personally altered a state study to imply that the vaccines pose a health risk to young men. He highlighted that study when asserting that some Covid vaccines are dangerous for young men.

After Wednesday’s roundtable, which was streamed on the social media platform X, DeSantis posted that “we will not stand by and let the FDA and the CDC use Floridians as guinea pigs for mRNA jabs that have not been proven to be safe or effective,” DeSantis wrote.

Since the first cases were reported in the state, more than 90,000 people in Florida have died from Covid-19 and 7.7 million people in the state have tested positive.

FDA officials have stated publicly that the booster had been thoroughly reviewed and tested for safety.

“The public can be assured that these updated vaccines have met the agency’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality,” wrote Peter Marks, director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a statement released by the agency Monday. “We very much encourage those who are eligible to consider getting vaccinated.”

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