TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday attempted to downplay anxiety over monkeypox, saying that politicians and the media have overblown the severity of the disease and equated it to fears surrounding Covid-19.
Florida had 525 monkeypox infections as of Tuesday, according to a state database, which is an increase from the roughly 350 infections from late last week. Florida had the fifth highest number of cases in the nation as of Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I am so sick of politicians, and we saw this with Covid, trying to sow fear into the population,” DeSantis said during a press conference near Orlando. “We’re not doing fear.”
The World Health Organization has declared monkeypox a global health emergency, with more than 25,000 cases reported in 83 countries. Seventy-six countries seeing monkeypox cases don’t typically have infections, according to the CDC. Monkeypox can be spread through skin-to-skin contact and the current infections are overwhelmingly among men who have sex with men.
New York City, which has declared a local state of emergency, has emerged as the epicenter of the disease, with over 1,600 cases of monkeypox. California, which has more than 800 cases, and Illinois, with about 500 cases, have also declared states of emergency over the monkeypox outbreak.
DeSantis also blasted New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, for declaring a state of emergency over the outbreak, saying he was convinced it was a move to restrict people from freedom.
“They’re going to abuse those emergency powers to restrict your freedom,” Desantis said. “I guarantee you that’s what will happen.”
DeSantis’ surgeon general, Joseph A. Ladapo, said on Wednesday during the same press conference that Florida has an adequate number of monkeypox vaccines, though he questioned the safety of two vaccines recommended for monkeypox by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He claimed very little data exists on their effectiveness.
The CDC has recommended two vaccines to treat monkeypox — Jynneos, also known as Imvamune or Imvanex, from Denmark, and another known as ACAM2000, which was developed after the World Health Organization declared smallpox as eliminated in 1980.
Ladapo has a long history of questioning the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines despite the vast majority of medical professionals, including the U.S. Food and Drug administration and Mayo Clinic, have emphasized the safety and effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine.
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services database also shows the state was allocated 36,383 doses of the Jynneos vaccine last week.
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who is challenging DeSantis for governor, criticized the governor over his response to the virus.
“While Governor DeSantis dismisses Monkeypox, at-risk Floridians still need better information, better testing, and access to vaccines for prevention,” he said on Twitter.
During the press conference, DeSantis also railed against gender affirming surgeries for children, saying that doctors who perform such procedures should be sued. His comments follow a request by the Florida Department of Health to the state medical board to ban transition-related medical care for children. The Florida Board of Medicine is expected to vote on whether to begin the rule-making process for the ban on Friday.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association support gender-affirming care for adults and adolescents. Medical guidelines, however, do not recommend gender-affirming surgeries for children under 18.