TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — While answering questions at an event in Hialeah, Gov. Ron DeSantis defended the recent changes to COVID-19 vaccine policies recommended by the state’s surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo.

“I think you’ve gotta understand, when you’re in that realm, coming out for the recommendation that our surgeon general did, that’s just foreboded, you will be blackballed, that’s just the reality,” DeSantis said. “What he’s doing is he’s leading on this. That’s his view and I agree with him on this.”

The governor said the burden of proof over vaccination for COVID-19 in young kids was on those saying children should be vaccinated, not those who disagree with it.

“The burden of proof is on the people who say you should get a 5-year-old kid vaccinated for COVID,” DeSantis said. “They have to show-carry that burden. It’s not the burden for a parent to say they should prove why you shouldn’t do it. And if you look at the clinical trial for example, with the Pfizer for 5 to 11, there was no severe COVID in the vaccine arm. But there was also no severe COVID in the placebo arm.”

DeSantis said kids were at “incredibly low risk” for COVID-19, and the science wasn’t clear on the benefit, but that for teenage boys there “was certainly an increase in myocarditis cases” to explain why the surgeon general had recommended against COVID-19 vaccines for children.

“You’re free to do what you want as a parent, but I think a lot of parents were feeling a lot of pressure to do it even though they didn’t necessarily think it was the right thing to do,” DeSantis said. “So in Florida, we’re a free state. You can make those decisions. Just as we oppose COVID vaccine mandates, we would also—parents view the data and they want to make those decisions.”

The governor continued, saying Florida stepped up to lead the way, with other states following its example six to 12 months later, even after they had at first joined in the “outcry” and people say the state “wasn’t following the science.”

“What you’re seeing now, you’re seeing vaccine passports repealed in different parts of the world and different parts of the United States,” DeSantis said. “Of course you should never have had that, you’re not going to say your civil rights depend on your personal choice, on something involving a shot. How did it ever come to that?”

He said that if Florida had not led on those issues, the situation would have worsened across the U.S.

“We held the line, and we showed the way,” DeSantis said, predicting that over the next year, more people would take a similar stance as Florida.