Florida Suspends Health Official in Probe Over Vaccine Law
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A health official who has helped lead central Florida’s response to the pandemic has been put on administrative leave as state officials investigate whether he tried to force employees to get vaccines for COVID-19, in violation of state law.
Raul Pino, the director of the Florida Department of Health Orange County, is being investigated by the state health agency according to Jeremy Refern, a press secretary for Florida Department of Health. Redfern stated in an email that they are investigating whether any laws were violated in this particular case.
A measure Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law in the fall of last year that blocks the government from implementing vaccine mandates. Private businesses are also not permitted to have vaccine requirements unless they allow workers to opt out due to religious reasons or medical reasons, as well as immunity based upon a previous infection regular tests, or an agreement to wear protective equipment.
Redfern wrote in an email that “The Department is committed at respecting all laws, including the ban on mandatory vaccinations for government employees” Redfern didn’t give any additional details.
Orlando’s WFTV reports that Pino was put on leave after the email he sent to the staff earlier this month, expressing concern about their vaccination rate.
Pino said that of 568 employees, only 77 had received booster shots, 219 received two vaccines doses and 34 had only received one dose according to the TV station.
“I apologize, but without reasonable and valid reasons, it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated,” Pino wrote. “We have been doing this for over two years. We were the first to provide vaccines to the masses. We’ve administered more than 300,000. And we’re not even at the half-way mark.”
Pino has been the director of the health agency in Orange County since 2019 and has been a prominent actor in the public’s response to the pandemic that has hit metro Orlando.