A warning from Florida’s top health official that the benefits of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines for men younger than 40 are outweighed by the dangers drew derision over the weekend from Democrats and “I told you so’s” from some Republicans.
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo’s guidance released Friday was based on an exit analysis of vaccine safety conducted by the state Department of Health.
The self-controlled case series analysis found that men ages 18-39 experienced an 84% increase in the relative incidence of cardiac-related death within 28 days of vaccination.
“With a high level of global immunity to COVID-19, the benefit of vaccination is likely outweighed by this abnormally high risk of cardiac-related death among men in this age group,” the guidance says. “Non-mRNA vaccines were not found to have these increased risks.”
Reactions to the findings were a mix of fist-pumping from those who bristled at the vaccine mandates and pointed criticisms by those who took a deeper look into the Florida Health Department’s methodology.
Florida Surgeon General says COVID-19 mRNA shots are associated with an increased risk of cardiac-related death among men 18-39, and recommends against COVID-19 mRNA shots for males ages 18-39. Biden should NOT be mandating these shots. https://t.co/YyIr6eCUtJ
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) October 8, 2022
Critics of the Florida health official were quick to point out what they said were problems with the vaccine analysis.
“When I’m governor, I’ll appoint a surgeon general who isn’t a partisan ideologue and who will provide sound medical advice,” the candidate tweeted.
Twitter briefly took down Dr. Lapado’s tweet promoting the analysis, saying that it violated its policy on “misleading information,” according to Politico.
The social media giant was roundly criticized, including by Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for Mr. DeSantis.
“His last tweet was about the state of Florida’s mRNA study on Friday. It had over 50,000 likes last time I saw it,” Ms. Pushaw tweeted Sunday morning. “Twitter has not explained WHY the study findings constitute ‘misinformation’ nor proven them wrong.”
The tweet was restored by midday.
Thomas Massie, the Kentucky Republican who has been an outspoken critic of vaccine and mask mandates during the pandemic, lauded the findings.
“Florida Surgeon General says COVID-19 mRNA shots are associated with an increased risk of cardiac-related death among men 18-39, and recommends against COVID-19 mRNA shots for males ages 18-39,” the congressman tweeted Saturday. “Biden should NOT be mandating these shots.”
Dr. Kristen Panthagani, an emergency medicine resident at Yale, said in a blog post that the analysis is not a peer-reviewed study, nor does it list any authors who penned the analysis.
She also accused the analysis of looking at a statistically insignificant sample size of the only 20 deaths of men younger than 40 who received an mRNA vaccine during its stated risk period and that the authors acknowledged in their “Limitations” sections that they couldn’t draw a direct line between vaccination and cardiac-related deaths.
“The anonymous author(s) themselves note these significant limitations, stating that they ‘cannot determine the causative nature of a participant’s death’ and “the underlying cause of death may not be cardiac related,’” Dr. Panthagani wrote.
She said the study didn’t compare cardiac-related outcomes for those who did and did not receive the vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted such a study in April.
While the study acknowledged that cardiac issues have been recorded as a result of the mRNA vaccines, they are “significantly higher after [a coronavirus] infection than after first, second, or unspecified dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccination for all other groups by sex and age.”
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older be vaccinated against COVID-19 but has said the risk of developing myocarditis and pericarditis is lower in those who wait longer between their first and second doses.
The agency says the known risks of COVID-19, including long-term health problems, hospitalization and death “far outweigh the potential risks of having a rare adverse reaction to vaccination, including the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis.”
In the Floriday analysis, men 60 and older were found to have a 10% increased risk of cardiac-related death within the 28-day period after inoculation.
Dr. Lapado recommended that men with preexisting conditions, such as myocarditis and pericarditis, take caution before choosing to get vaccinated.
Florida residents 18 or older who died within 25 weeks of the original vaccine rollout in December 2020 were included.
Dr. Ladapo said in March that healthy children ages 5-17 don’t need the COVID-19 vaccine.
The doctor has long been a skeptic of the purported best practices for addressing the pandemic.
He told reporters after he was confirmed in a 24-15 vote by the Florida Senate in February: “I’ve been consistently talking good health from the beginning of the pandemic, holistically and not in one particular lane, so that’s what I’ll continue doing as the surgeon general.”
Dr. Ladapo argued against lockdowns as a methodology to slow the spread of the virus in an April 2020 opinion column for The Wall Street Journal.
He was also part of a group called “America’s Frontline Doctors” that demonstrated outside the Supreme Court in July 2020 to tout the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and zinc at warding off coronavirus infections.
The group’s founder, Simone Gold, was sentenced to 60 days in federal prison for entering the Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
The New York Times penned a feature on Dr. Ladapo after his confirmation that referred to him as an accomplished clinical researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, and that he holds degrees in medicine and health policy from Harvard — though the same story noted that he mentioned in October 2021 that “adverse reactions” to the vaccine should receive more attention.
“To say he’s out of the mainstream would be an understatement,” Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told The Times. “His views are not only very unorthodox, they don’t make any sense.”
Florida’s biweekly COVID-19 report, published Friday, showed that new cases (10,793) and case positivity rate (7.1%) had declined since its report on Sept. 23 (11,837 and 7.3%, respectively).
The Palm Beach Post reported Friday that the number of deaths from COVID-19 is also trending downward. The weekly average of 261 new deaths since Sept. 23 was the lowest total since June 17.
According to the latest CDC data, 68.5% of Floridians have completed their primary series of COVID-19 shots, with 81% receiving just one dose. Roughly 43% of state residents who received their first two COVID-19 vaccine doses went on to get their first booster dose.