JACKSONVILLE, Fla — A Florida Senate committee on health policy has recommended the state's top health official be confirmed, a move that has been met with controversy.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo's confirmation hearing began Wednesday morning. He has been a contentious pick by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and a group of physicians is protesting his confirmation.
During a question-and-answer process Wednesday, Ladapo faced complaints that he was dodging questions about the effectiveness of vaccines.
"I have spent my professional career dedicated to issues that are relevant and important to public health," Ladapo said. "I am looking forward to applying that training and those skills to the public health priorities of Florida ... My vision is to improve the health of Floridians and to reduce the burden of chronic disease in Florida by applying scientific data, evidence-based strategies and a sensible approach to public health."
DeSantis appointed Ladapo as surgeon general in September of 2021.
Many doctors are concerned Ladapo is spreading misinformation. Much of his guidance and rhetoric is at odds with doctors and the CDC. However, many supporters of the governor, who appointed him, support Ladapo.
"It's concerning that someone who is so willing to deny science could have such a powerful role," said Dr. Nancy Staats, the founder of Doctors Fighting COVID.
Doctors Fighting COVID is protesting Ladapo's confirmation. Ladapo has questioned the efficacy of vaccines and has recently suggested asymptomatic people should not get tested.
In 2020, Lapado was reportedly in a viral video of doctors spreading COVID-19 misinformation that got taken down by social media sites. In October, he was reportedly asked to leave a meeting when he refused to wear a mask after a state senator told him she had a serious medical condition.
Staats wants the Senate Health Policy Committee to ask questions at the hearing about where Ladapo stands.
"Do you take care of COVID patients?" Staats said. "Have you taken care of COVID patients? Are you vaccinated? What do you feel about vaccination? Are you willing to follow the science? Give us some answers. We need to know where you stand."
Others who support the governor are less concerned.
"He happens to be appointed by the most successful COVID governor in all of America," said Mauro Gines, president of the Filipino-American Republicans of Northeast Florida.
Gines supports DeSantis and believes Ladapo's resume qualifies him for the job. Ladapo is against vaccine mandates, and so is Gines.
"There should not be any vaccine mandate," Gines said. "The governor should be able to select somebody who can also express his ideas."
The Republican Party of Duval County referred First Coast News to the state Republican Party, which did not return our calls for comment. Neither did the Florida Department of Health.