DeSantis administration puts Florida health director on leave for encouraging vaccinations for his staff

By Frank Gluck, Fort Myers News-Press, Jan 19, 2022.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, already facing criticism for downplaying the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccinations, has put on leave Orange County Health Director Dr. Raul Pino for encouraging his staff to get vaccinated.

Pino had written in a Jan. 4 email to his staff: “I have a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it,” WMFE, a public radio station in Orlando, reported.

In an email Wednesday to the USA TODAY Network-Florida, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw referred to a health department statement on the decision to put Pino on leave:

“As the decision to get vaccinated is a personal medical choice that should be made free from coercion and mandates from employers, the employee in question has been placed on administrative leave, and the Florida Department of Health is conducting an inquiry to determine if any laws were broken in this case.

“The Department is committed to upholding all laws, including the ban on vaccine mandates for government employees and will take appropriate action once additional information is known.”

Pino’s email to his staff detailed that only 219 of his 568 staff members had received two doses. “I am sorry but in the absence of reasonable and real reasons it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated. We have been at this for two years, we were the first to give vaccines to the masses, we have done more than 300,000 and we are not even at 50% pathetic,” he wrote.