The Florida Department of Health on Thursday sent a letter to Special Olympics International threatening the $27.5 million fine. A copy of the letter, first reported on Twitter by ABC News, says Special Olympics had asked 5,500 people to provide proof of vaccinations in order to gain access to the 2022 Special Olympics U.S. violates a state prohibition on requiring proof of vaccination.
“[Special Olympics International] was unable to bring the event into compliance for the benefit of their delegates,” the letter reads. “And reinstate all those who have been denied access based on proof of vaccination.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at a press conference on Friday hailed the Special Olympics’ decision to rescind the vaccine mandate as a victory for the thousands of athletes who are expected to compete in the games. He said the mandate marginalized those players, especially those who had some immunity after previously testing positive for the virus.
“How does this relate to the competition, I don’t understand,” DeSantis said of Covid-19 vaccines. “We’ve never seen anything like this vaccine used to try to marginalize disadvantaged people.”
“And a lot of those Special Olympians have had Covid now as well,” DeSantis said. “Most people have already had it.”
DeSantis signed Florida’s ban on vaccination mandates in November as the Biden administration planned to roll out federal vaccination mandates the following month. Florida’s new law has led the Florida Department of Health to fine Leon County $3.5 million after 14 county employees were fired for failing to comply with a vaccination mandate. The state Department of Health later pardoned the $3.5 million fine.
The Florida Department of Health is overseen by state surgeon general Joseph A. Ladapo, who told Friday’s press conference that talks leading to the Special Olympics reversal have begun. Six months ago. Ladapo has long been skeptical of the safety and effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine. He said vaccines mandated by Special Olympics offer no protection at this stage of the pandemic.
Ladapo’s zero protection stance was a small departure from his previous view of vaccines, which was that they were one of many tools in the fight to spread Covid-19. But that protection also weakens over time, which is why the Special Olympics mandate would not be effective in stopping the virus, Ladapo claimed.
“Ethically it doesn’t make sense,” Ladapo said. “It’s on the wrong side.”
He also said there needed to be more discussion about the adverse effects of the Covid vaccine.
“We don’t like to talk frankly about security because it’s taboo,” Ladapo said. “But it’s an honest conversation that needs to happen.”
Ladapo was one of more than 20 medical professionals who signed a memo in 2021 asking the US Food and Drug Administration not to give final approval to Covid-19 vaccines, which were developed while Covid was infecting 85 million people nationwide. The memo asks the FDA to undergo years of safety testing of vaccines before they receive final approval.
The vast majority of health professionals and organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FDA, Johns Hopkins Medicine and Mayo Clinic, advise the public to get vaccinated both to protect against the virus and to alleviate severe symptoms of the virus.