QAnon and white nationalist-linked media provide a platform for Florida's surgeon general to push COVID-19 vaccine misinformation
During at least four appearances on far-right media last week — including on anti-vaccine, QAnon-supporting, and white nationalist shows — Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo pushed COVID-19 misinformation, touting his recommendation against vaccinations for males ages 18-39 that is based on a deeply flawed study.
On October 7, the Florida Department of Health released a flawed study that found “an 84% increase in the relative incidence of cardiac-related death among males 18-39 years old within 28 days following mRNA vaccination.” Ladapo recommended against vaccines for 18- to 39-year-old men, claiming that “the concerns of many individuals have been dismissed” and that “these are important findings that should be communicated to Floridians.”
Doctors and epidemiologists have pushed back against the study, warning that it is deeply flawed. The study is neither peer-reviewed nor has it been published in a scientific journal, and according to The Washington Post, which spoke with more than a dozen experts, the data analyzed is questionable:
More than a dozen experts interviewed by The Washington Post — including specialists in vaccines, patient safety and study design — listed concerns with Florida’s analysis, saying it relies on information gleaned from frequently inaccurate death certificates rather than medical records, skews the results by trying to exclude anyone with covid-19 or a covid-related death, and draws conclusions from a total of 20 cardiac-related deaths in men 18 to 39 that occurred within four weeks of vaccination. Experts noted the deaths might have been caused by other factors, including underlying illnesses or undetected covid.
Additionally, the broader medical community was quick to criticize Ladapo’s recommendation against vaccinations for men ages 18-39. Associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida College of Public Health Jason Salemi told Politico, “I try to give a balanced discussion of what the benefits are of vaccination, what are the risks? And not just the vaccine itself, but certainly of Covid, and that’s what I don’t see here.”
On October 20, despite this mounting evidence, Ladapo appeared on at least four different far-right shows that are known to push misinformation and conspiracy theories to tout the study and his recommendation against vaccinations for 18- to 39-year-old men.
- Ladapo was a guest on the anti-vaccine show The HighWire with Del Bigtree, where he pushed the unsound study and criticized anyone who questioned its results: “Considering all the smoke that there already is … how do you dismiss this type of finding? Well, you only do that if you’re not really interested in the truth, if you’re really more interested in an agenda.” Ladapo has appeared on another anti-vaccine podcast, hosted by anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., in August.
- Ladapo also joined the far-right Epoch Times podcast American Thought Leaders to tout the study, saying, “What I always try to do … is stay close to the data." He went on to promote his recommendation against vaccines, "You obviously should not be giving mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to young men at this point in the pandemic.”
- Known COVID-19 misinformer and white nationalist Stew Peters, host of the eponymous The Stew Peters Show, welcomed Ladapo on his show. Ladapo endorsed the controversial analysis of his study, saying, “The method has been used, the self-controlled case series, it’s been used in hundreds of papers. So when people are having tantrums, that’s a clear sign that you’ve left the domain of reason and logic and people are trying to protect something.”
- As previously reported by Media Matters’ Alex Kaplan, Ladapo also appeared on the QAnon show X22 Report to push his dubious recommendations about COVID-19 vaccines.