A Florida pediatrician has been booted off a state-appointed public health board of directors for statements about COVID-19 vaccines that displeased at least one Republican elected official.
The pediatrician, Dr. Lisa Gwynn, had been advocating for equal access to the vaccine for children under 5 years old at a time when the state of Florida was running counter to health advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida is the only state that has not ordered vaccines for young children, despite the CDC’s recommendation that children under 5 be given the shots to protect against severe illness and death by the coronavirus.
Gwynn’s medical recommendation provoked a harsh response from Florida’s chief financial officer, Jimmy Petronis, an ally of the state’s hard-right Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has peddled misleading information about the vaccines and encouraged residents to do their own research on the pandemic. Both men are up for reelection this year.
The doctor was removed Wednesday from her position on the board of directors of the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation, a state health insurance provider, after being appointed several months earlier.
Petronis’ deputy chief of staff, Susan Miller, told Gwynn in an email viewed by HuffPost that she had made “some very political statements that do not reflect the CFO’s point of view.”
Gwynn told HuffPost she received no prior warning or offer to discuss the situation.
Miller accused the doctor of “going so far as to say that the state is ‘obstruct[ing]’ access to vaccines,” an apparent reference to a June 17 press release from the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Gwynn, who is president of the FCAAP, is quoted as saying, “The state’s decision to obstruct access to COVID-19 vaccines is anti-science, an affront to parental rights, and an intrusion into the relationship between doctors, patients, and the families they serve.”
In the U.S., coronavirus vaccine distribution is done on a state-by-state basis, with state leaders putting in large orders for the drugs on behalf of localized health care providers. Because DeSantis refuses to put in an order for Florida, parents of young kids in the state are limited in where they can go to get the shots, the FCAAP says.
Miller went on: “The CFO does not share your opinion and believes that the state has gone to great lengths to protect lives in the face of the Coronavirus.”
Petronis has no medical background.
Gwynn called the decision “disappointing” in a tweet.
“This wasn’t a matter of opinion or views,” she said in a recorded interview with local station WSVN. “This was just stating the fact of the consequences of the decision that was made by the surgeon general to not have local health departments carry the COVID vaccine for children under 5.”
Florida parents have reported difficulty in finding appointments for their kids to get vaccinated.