Q&A – Vaccine Mandates In Force In Florida

Southern California Residents Line Up For Flu Shots At Local Library

Today’s entry: I heard your discussion of the proposal to ban vaccine mandates in Florida. My question is why vaccines could be mandated in the first place and are there other vaccine mandates other than for school children?

Bottom Line: This question follows the proposed bill by Florida representative Anthony Sabatini which would ban governments within Florida from mandating a COVID vaccine. Based on current survey work by Gallup and Florida Trend, between 42% to 49% of Floridians don’t currently want a COVID vaccine when it’s made available and they clearly wouldn’t want to be forced to take the vaccine. 

First, all vaccine mandates which exist are implemented at the state level. The federal government lacks the authority to mandate and enforce vaccination mandates. Instead, federal agencies issue recommendations that are often adopted by states. This takes us to Florida’s vaccine policy pertaining to schools. Under Florida law, vaccines are required but not mandated. That might sound like semantics but it's not. Under a mandate, all students would have to accept a vaccine to attend schools. Under Florida’s requirements, there are two exemptions. Students may be exempted for medical or religious reasons. And in fact, many parents have opted out in Florida. According to a 2018 WalletHub survey, about a third of Florida’s students haven’t received all required vaccines outlined by the Florida Department of Health. Incidentally, those required vaccines for students include four or five doses of DTaP, four or five doses of IPV, two doses of MMR, three doses of Hep B, one Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap), and two doses of Varicella.

Aside from those requirements for school children, there aren’t any other required vaccinations in the state of Florida. Now, does that mean there aren’t situations in which one may be required or even mandated to take a vaccine? Yes. Private employers, often in healthcare, may require vaccinations which commonly includes the seasonal flu vaccine. Same for government employment. Under certain instances, the use of certain government services could include vaccination requirements as well. 

Now, in theory, the state of Florida could mandate a vaccine. According to the Florida Department of Health, when questioned on this topic, they said that the state health officer, upon declaration of a public health emergency, may take actions that are necessary to protect the public health. During a public health emergency, any order of the state health officer shall be immediately enforceable by a law enforcement officer under s. 381.0012.

So, the state thinks the authority exists. The reason why I say they think is that it’s a given any effort to mandate a COVID-19 vaccination would be met with a legal challenge which would lead to the court system issuing the final judgment. The passage of the law would be a preemptive way to guard against the possibility. That being said, with Governor DeSantis in charge of our state, you’d imagine that if he won’t mandate masks, he won’t be mandating vaccines either.

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Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

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Photo by: Getty Images North America

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