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Amid a Measles Outbreak, the Florida Surgeon General Disregards Scientific Evidence

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As a measles outbreak escalates in a Florida elementary school, the state’s top health official’s advice contradicts scientific consensus, potentially exposing unvaccinated children to one of the most contagious diseases on the planet, according to clinicians and public health experts.

Joseph A. Ladapo, Florida’s surgeon general, neglected to advocate for parents to vaccinate their children or to keep unvaccinated students at home as a precaution in a recent letter addressed to parents at a Fort Lauderdale-area school where six confirmed measles cases were reported this week.

Rather than adhering to the “normal” recommendation of advising parents to keep unvaccinated children at home for up to 21 days — the measles incubation period — Ladapo stated that the state health department “is leaving it up to parents or guardians to decide on school attendance.”

Ladapo’s controversial decision is consistent with his history of defying public health norms, particularly regarding vaccines. Just last month, he advocated for discontinuing the use of mRNA coronavirus vaccines, a stance condemned by the public health community.

Ben Hoffman, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, criticized Florida’s guidance, stating that it contradicts longstanding and widely accepted public health advice for measles, a disease associated with severe complications, including death.

“It contradicts everything I’ve ever heard and everything I’ve read,” Hoffman remarked. “It goes against our policy. It goes against what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would recommend.”

In recent years, measles outbreaks have been increasing. As of 2024, the CDC has received reports of at least 26 cases in at least 12 states, which is roughly double the number reported at this time last year. Alongside the six confirmed cases in the Florida school, cases have also been reported in Arizona, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

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