‘Vaccines are saving lives’: DeSantis stresses importance of shots, criticizes mask mandates as Florida COVID cases spike

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — During a visit to St. Petersburg to discuss red tide on Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis took time to answer questions and address Florida’s recent spike in coronavirus cases and stress the importance of Floridians getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

“So here’s, I think, the most important thing with the data: if you are vaccinated—fully vaccinated—the chance of you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID is effectively zero,” DeSantis said. “If you look at the people who are being admitted to hospitals, over 95 percent of them are either not fully vaccinated or not vaccinated at all. These vaccines are saving lives. They are reducing mortality.”

The governor said he’s been urging people to get vaccinated for months because of what he called the “summer season.”

“We have a summer season here, just like last year,” DeSantis said. “It started a little later this year. So you’re going to have higher prevalence for the rest of July, probably into August. And then it goes back and goes the different waves. If you’re vaccinated, those waves are not going to impact you in any significant way and I think that’s the important message for people.”

Gov. DeSantis praised Florida’s vaccine rollout and its choice to prioritize seniors getting the shot first, and acknowledged the slower uptake of the vaccine among younger Floridians. He also reiterated that he thought it was a mistake for the Food and Drug Administration to pause use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after a few women experienced blood clots. Florida followed the FDA and Centers for Disease Control recommendation at the time and paused the vaccine.

“I think that, that sent a message that maybe this is not something that they should be doing. I think that’s been unfortunate because I took it, I think it’s effective,” he said.

DeSantis pointed out that Florida has not mandated the vaccine. A recent law that went into effect essentially bans vaccine passports in the state. Florida law also prohibits counties and cities from implementing any local COVID restrictions, including mask mandates. There was never a statewide mask mandate in Florida at any point during the pandemic.

The governor again on Wednesday voiced his frustration with mask mandates, saying ones put in place now send a bad message about the vaccines.

“I get a little bit frustrated when I see some of these jurisdictions saying, ‘even if you’re healthy and vaccinated, you must wear a mask because we’re seeing increased cases.’ Understand what that message is sending to people who aren’t vaccinated,” DeSantis said. “It’s telling them that the vaccines don’t work. I think that’s the worst message you can send to people at this time.”

While DeSantis stressed the importance and efficacy of the vaccine, he also warned against government officials pushing vaccination too hard.

“They have different reasons for why they don’t take it and I think the more they’re hectored by government officials or some of these folks – that is not going to get them to ‘yes.’ I can tell you that right now,” he said. “I think these are folks that have skepticism of authorities. I think they have different reasons why they may not do it. I don’t think most of them think COVID is a hoax or anything. I think they understand.”