TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo declined to disclose whether he has received a coronavirus vaccine during a contentious confirmation hearing where Democrats pressed the state’s top doctor to promote the shots.
Ladapo, appointed in September by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, has attracted national scrutiny over his close alignment with the governor in opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other health policies.
During a confirmation hearing Tuesday, Democrats grew visibly frustrated with Ladapo — a continuation of a first hearing last month in which Senate Democrats sitting on the committee abstained from voting on the controversial nominee following questions about what they view as his lack of experience navigating pandemics and disputed positions on medical subjects.
"It certainly seems like there has been a lot of questions about vaccines and there is some equivocation on your part. Is there a reason why you just can’t come out and say that you believe vaccines are a very important step for prevention?" asked Democrat Sen. Tina Polsky, according to The Associated Press.
Ladapo said his vaccination status is private medical information. The AP noted that he also said that "with the vaccines, as time goes by, the protection from infection declines" but "unfortunately, there’s been little discussion about this."
In his first hearing, Ladapo concluded vaccinations do limit hospitalizations and deaths while masks were not effective at preventing infections.
It was Polsky who requested that Ladapo wear a face mask while meeting with her in her office last fall, citing a serious medical condition. She later revealed that she had breast cancer.
She brought up the encounter in her closing remarks, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
"We’re in the middle of a pandemic," Polsky said. "[He] was not recommended by his former supervisor; is part of a right-wing, fringe medical group who has turned his position into a political one; who is dubious about vaccines and thinks masks are useless — even when requested by someone to wear one."
Ladapo came to Florida from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, where he was an associate professor and cared for hospitalized patients. In 2020, he appeared in a since-deleted video because of COVID-19 misinformation by a group called America's Frontline Doctors, promoting the debunked claims that the drug hydroxychloroquine could provide a cure for the virus, the USA Today reports.
Republicans on the committee Tuesday ultimately approved Ladapo's confirmation. He must now receive approval from the full Senate before he is officially confirmed.
10 Tampa Bay's Andrew Krietz contributed to this report.