Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo is drawing national attention after announcing Monday that his state will officially recommend that health officials not give COVID-19 vaccinations to healthy children. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded by criticizing Ladapo for going against Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, saying: “It’s deeply disturbing that there are politicians peddling conspiracy theories out there and casting doubt on vaccinations when it is our best tool against the virus and best tool to prevent even teenagers from being hospitalized.” 

Ladapo, a physician and secretary of the Florida Department of Health, said that Florida would become the first state in the country to make such a recommendation against the COVID-19 mandates for children set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In addition to his vaccination guidance, Ladapo has stirred controversy for his stance on masks. 

“These things are not saving lives,” the Florida surgeon general told reporters, holding a mask at a March 3 press conference. 

“No high quality data says [masks] saved any lives,” Ladapo said. “And it’s a lie, and it needs to stop, and people need to unbelieve it.” 

Here are nine things to know about Ladapo. 

  1. He was appointed in September as Florida’s surgeon general by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has praised him for a “superb background” and a career that places a “strong emphasis in health policy research.”
  2. He was born in Nigeria and came to the U.S. with his family when he was 5 years old.
  3. His father was a microbiologist and moved the family to the U.S. to continue his studies.
  4. He has an extensive medical background: A graduate of Wake Forest University, he received an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and a Ph.D. in health policy from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. 
  5. He has taught at the University of Florida and was an associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. 
  6. He has come under fire for not supporting vaccine mandates in the past. He argues that health is a personal decision and has said that vaccines have “been treated almost like a religion.”
  7. He has advocated that Florida pass a Free Speech of Health Care Practitioners Act to protect medical doctors from censorship by prohibiting medical boards from revoking licenses from or otherwise sanctioning doctors who express dissenting opinions.
  8. He was a decathlete on Wake Forest University’s track and field team and served as team captain. 
  9. He and his wife have three young children.

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