Will Floridians be forced to get a coronavirus vaccine? No.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said vaccines will not be required in the state.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a Dec. 14 news conference at Tampa General Hospital.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a Dec. 14 news conference at Tampa General Hospital. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]
Published Jan. 5, 2021

Numerous readers have reached out to the Tampa Bay Times, wondering whether Florida will require its residents to get a coronavirus vaccine.

The answer is no.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly said he will not mandate that Floridians be vaccinated, falling in line with recommendations by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, and others.

Requiring the vaccines would be “foolhardy,” said Jay Wolfson, a professor of public health at the University of South Florida. “What that’s going to do is create more pushback, and we don’t need that.”

Even if Florida leaders wanted to require coronavirus vaccines, they couldn’t right now, according to Michael Teng, an associate professor USF who is an expert in immunology and vaccine development.

That’s because the two approved so far are under emergency use authorizations, meaning they can’t be mandated by governmental entities. That could only happen sometime next year, after the drugs have gone through a “safety monitoring period” and been licensed, Teng said.

Based on DeSantis’ comments, though, it doesn’t seem Florida will do so. In an online announcement about vaccines Nov. 19, the governor made a point to say that vaccination is “the choice of each and every Floridian.”

He’s shared the same sentiment again and again in recent weeks, including on Monday, while talking about seniors’ willingness to take the drugs during a press conference in Longwood: “Some have just said that they didn’t want to do it. And that’s fine. There’s not going to be any type of forcing.”

For answers to more reader questions about the coronavirus vaccines, or to submit your own, check out the Timesongoing Q&A.

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