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DeSantis is seeking a grand jury investigation of COVID-19 vaccines

 Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) introduces newly appointed Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo (right) in a press conference in September 2021.
AP
Gov. Ron DeSantis also said that Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo will conduct research through the University of Florida to ”assess sudden deaths of individuals in good health who received a COVID-19 vaccine.”

The grand jury petition is focused in part on statements by pharmaceutical companies about the efficacy of the vaccines.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that he plans to petition the Florida Supreme Court to convene a grand jury to investigate “any and all wrongdoing” with respect to the COVID-19 vaccines.

The Republican governor, who is often mentioned as a possible 2024 presidential, gave no specifics on what wrongdoing the panel would investigate but suggested it would be in part aimed to jog loose more information from pharmaceutical companies about the vaccines and potential side effects.

He made the announcement following a roundtable with Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo and a panel of scientists and physicians.

“We’ll be able to get the data whether they want to give it or not,” DeSantis said. “In Florida, it is illegal to mislead and misrepresent, especially when you are talking about the efficacy of a drug.”

Vaccine studies funded by pharmaceutical companies that developed COVID-19 vaccines have been published in peer-reviewed journals like the New England Journal of Medicine, and government panels reviewed data on the safety and effectiveness of the shots before approving them for use.

“The pharmaceutical industry has a notorious history of misleading the public for financial gain,” the governor's petition said.

Statewide grand juries, usually comprised of 18 people, can investigate criminal activity and issue indictments but also examine systemic problems in Florida and make recommendations. Recent such panels have tackled immigration issues and school safety.

DeSantis noted that Florida recently “got $3.2 billion through legal action against those responsible for the opioid crisis. So, it’s not like this is something that’s unprecedented.” That money came largely through lawsuits, and settlements with drug-makers, retailers and distributors.

DeSantis said he expects to get approval from the Supreme Court for the statewide grand jury to be empaneled, likely in the Tampa Bay area.

“That will come with legal processes that will be able to get more information and to bring legal accountability to those who committed misconduct,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis also announced that he is creating an entity called the “Public Health Integrity Committee,” which will include many of the physicians and scientists who participated in the roundtable on Tuesday. The group includes prominent opponents of lockdowns, federal vaccine mandates, and child vaccinations.

He said that over the course of the pandemic some people have lost faith in public health institutions, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The governor has frequently spoken out against CDC directives, including mask and vaccine mandates, and filed lawsuits to stop many from taking effect in Florida.

Additionally, the governor announced that Ladapo will conduct research through the University of Florida to ”assess sudden deaths of individuals in good health who received a COVID-19 vaccine.” In addition, he said that the Florida Department of Health will utilize disease surveillance and vital statistics to assess such deaths.

“We are initiating a program here in Florida where we will be studying the incidents, in surveillance, of myocarditis within a few weeks of COVID-19 vaccination for people who died,” Ladapo said.

“We will answer this question. It is a question that I’m sure keeps the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna up late at night, hoping no one ever looks. But we are going to look here in Florida.”

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