Florida’s surgeon general issued a press release calling for an end to mRNA COVID-19 vaccine use based on unsubstantiated claims about safety. The official dismissed as insufficient a response from the CDC and FDA to his letter asking the agencies to address concerns that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines contain potentially harmful DNA contamination. The official claims the agency’s response offered data from what he calls “inadequate assessments” and “obfuscated” his core concerns. Many social media accounts and several government officials are circulating the press release and celebrating the surgeon general. A doctor who is tracking elected officials and candidates calling to ban COVID-19 vaccines is encouraging other Florida officials to do the same. Others are labeling the surgeon general’s action a political stunt and suggesting he should have his medical license revoked.
Risk level: High
Recommendation: These types of unsubstantiated claims may discourage patients from getting the updated COVID-19 vaccine, especially when the claims are coming from a government health official. While conversations about the Florida surgeon general’s letter and press release are unlikely to arise in a clinical setting, doctors may face questions about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. Talking points may emphasize that in the FDA’s response to the Florida surgeon general’s letter, the agency stated that over three years of scientific evidence and global safety monitoring have shown mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to be safe and the residual DNA in the vaccines to be harmless. The CDC continues recommending COVID-19 vaccines for everyone six months and older, because staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines reduces the risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization, death, and long COVID.