Fraudsters who mislead the public about access to COVID-19 vaccinations could be charged with a third-degree felony and sued in civil court, under a measure championed by House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
The proposal (HB 9), released Thursday, would make it illegal to receive compensation for falsely advertising access to COVID-19 vaccinations or any other pandemic-related vaccine.
First-time violators would face third-degree felony charges and upward of five years imprisonment. Repeat offenders would face second-degree felony charges, which are punishable by at least 15 years in prison.
The bill also authorizes the state attorney general to file a civil action if he or she believes vaccination fraud is occurring, and allows the attorney general to request a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order, “or any other appropriate order.”
Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican, promised to fast track the bill during the 2021 legislative session that begins March 2. The House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee is slated to consider the bill during a Jan. 14 meeting.
“It is a priority of the Florida House to protect Floridians who just want to get a COVID vaccine without being fleeced,” Sprowls said in a prepared statement Thursday.
“As a former state prosecutor, I know all too well how these operators prey on our consumers, and I will make it our mission to end their practice here.” The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Ardian Zika, R-Land O’ Lakes.