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State News

Special Olympics drops vaccine requirement after Florida threatens a $27M fine

Chris O'Meara
In this file photo, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo speaks before a bill signing by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Nov. 18, 2021, in Brandon.

After the state threatened to impose a $27.5 million fine, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that the Special Olympics USA Games will not have a COVID-19 vaccination requirement this week in Orlando.

The Florida Department of Health sent a notice Thursday to Special Olympics International threatening to assess the fine for 5,500 violations of a state prohibition on vaccination mandates.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who doubles as secretary of the Department of Health, said the state had worked with Special Olympics officials for six months to resolve the vaccination issue.

“How can you force people to take a vaccine in order to stop transmission when that vaccine is not effective at stopping transmission?” Ladapo said during an appearance with DeSantis in Orlando.

DeSantis and Ladapo have long criticized COVID-19 vaccination requirements. Florida lawmakers last year made permanent a ban on so-called vaccine “passports.” That followed DeSantis issuing an executive order to prohibit businesses from requiring people to show they had been vaccinated to gain entry.

The law authorized the department to impose $5,000 fines per individual required to show proof of vaccination. The Department of Health letter pointed to 5,500 people being required to show proof of vaccination to gain entry to the games. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaccines help protect people from getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.