FACT CHECK: Donald Trump Makes Misleading Claims About Ron DeSantis’s Actions On Vaccines
Former President Donald Trump claimed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “sort of mandated” the COVID-19 vaccine and that he wanted people to get it.
While DeSantis has expressed support for COVID-19 vaccines, he did not mandate them. DeSantis signed legislation that banned COVID-19 vaccine passports and vaccine mandates in 2021.
Trump spoke with Sebastian Gorka, a radio host and former Trump Administration official, and Gorka asked him about COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Trump answered by saying that some governors mandated them before criticizing DeSantis on vaccines.
“DeSanctus, he was big into vaccines. Do you remember the lines? They were lined up to get the vaccine and I guess he sort of mandated it, but he wanted people to get the vaccine. And a lot of people think that’s okay and a lot of people don’t,” Trump said.
DeSantis, though, never mandated vaccines. If he had done so, media outlets would have covered it, yet none have. Check Your Fact also reviewed executive orders signed by DeSantis, which also did not yield any results for the governor mandating COVID-19 vaccines.
In April 2021, DeSantis issued an executive order that banned businesses and government agencies from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to receive service, according to the Associated Press. He then signed legislation that codified the executive order in May 2021. (RELATED: Video Of DeSantis And Pence Meeting In Iowa Is From 2020)
In November 2021, DeSantis sued the Biden administration over an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency temporary standard that would require employers with 100 or more employees to mandate said employees to get COVID-19 vaccines or undergo weekly testing, according to a press release from the Florida Governor’s office. DeSantis signed legislation that banned schools, government entities and businesses from enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates later that month, according to Reuters.
“I told Floridians that we would protect their jobs and today we made that the law. Nobody should lose their job due to heavy-handed COVID mandates and we had a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the people of Florida. I’m thankful to the Florida Legislature for joining me in standing up for freedom,” DeSantis, according to a November 2021 press release.
DeSantis did tout the COVID-19 vaccine for much of 2021, according to CBS News. He would later stop advocating for the COVID-19 vaccine, the outlet reported. Politico reported in September 2021 that DeSantis had received a COVID-19 vaccine, though his public advocation for the shot dropped.
The Washington Post reported in December 2022 that DeSantis “reversed” his support for the vaccine and started moving to the right of Trump on the issue. The report cites DeSantis’s defense of Operation Warp Speed, Florida’s vaccine distribution plan and the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine before his pivot.
“We know he’s not really anti-vax, he’s on the record, but now he’s taking this position for really blatant political purposes, it appears, and it’s really undermining to health care professionals,” David Pate, a retired health systems executive and a former adviser to Republican Idaho Gov. Brad Little, told The Washington Post.
A DeSantis campaign spokesperson pointed to actions taken by the governor, such as not buying COVID-19 vaccine doses for children from the federal government, recommending against COVID-19 vaccine shots for children and men aged 18-39 and an initiative to make “permanent COVID-19 freedoms in Florida.”
Check Your Fact reached out to the Trump campaign for comment.