Florida health official placed on leave after encouraging staffers to get COVID vaccine

Florida health official placed on leave after encouraging staffers to get COVID vaccine
Image via Screengrab

A health official in Florida who led the pandemic response in the central part of the state is now facing an investigation amid allegations that he encouraged his co-workers to get vaccinated for COVID-19; a move that would be in violation of Florida state law.

Raul Pino, director of the Department of Health in Orange County, Fla. is at the center of the state agency's investigation “to determine if any laws were broken in this case," according to an email released by the Florida Department of Health press secretary Jeremy Redfern.

If the allegations are proven to be true, Pino may have violated a new law implemented by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Last fall, DeSantis' measure prohibited "government agencies from implementing vaccine mandates and restricts private businesses from having vaccine requirements unless they allow workers to opt-out for medical reasons, religious beliefs, immunity based on a previous infection, regular testing or an agreement to wear protective gear."

In his statement, Redfern went on to reiterate the agency's commitment to upholding DeSantis' recently-implemented law. “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,” Redfern said in the email.

Pino was placed on administrative leave shortly after he sent an email to the agency's staff with concerns about the vaccination rate. In the email, according to WFTV, Pino noted that out of the agency's 568 staffers, only 219 had received both doses of the vaccine and 34 only had a single dose. Of the 219 who are fully vaccinated, only 77 had received COVID-19 booster shots.

“I am sorry but in the absence of reasonable and real reasons it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated,” Pino wrote. “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.”

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