Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that if elected president, he would not pay for Americans to get more coronavirus vaccines.
“We’re certainly not going to fund them,” Florida’s Republican governor said in a lengthy interview with ABC News recorded Wednesday from Midland, Texas, where he announced his national energy policy.
The comment comes as DeSantis has stepped up his attacks in recent weeks against former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, over his administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a presidential candidate, DeSantis regularly warned that mandates and restrictions would return if the government had the chance.
“The implication is that they wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. Well, when I’m president, we’re not going to allow that to happen. We’re going to hold people accountable and we’re going to make sure that in America, you’re never going to be harmed by a health care bureaucrat trying to take away your freedom,” DeSantis said in Spencer, Iowa, in late August .
President Joe Biden said last month that he had “approved” a proposal to seek more funding for the Covid-19 response, including funding for the development of new vaccines. Although the end of the federal public health emergency in May means the U.S. government will no longer cover the cost of Covid-19 vaccines for most Americans, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last month that it allocated more than $1.4 billion for the development of new vaccines and therapies as part of the $5 billion Project NextGen initiative.
While some limited local mask mandates have returned, DeSantis last week hosted a roundtable discussion on the new Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, where his surgeon general advised people under 65 against receive them.
DeSantis, in the ABC interview, doubled down on his state’s recent guidelines discouraging anyone under 65 from getting them, contradicting recommendations from federal health officials.
The governor said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could not be trusted — a response that prompted a prolonged on-air clarification of the scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines from from ABC anchor Linsey Davis.
“How well has the CDC done, with all due respect, over the last several years,” DeSantis said. “How many people trust the CDC at this point? And I was someone five years ago, you would have said the CDC had said that, that would have carried a lot of weight with me. I was in the trenches during Covid. They cite flimsy studies claiming masks will stop Covid. They cite flimsy studies of mRNA injections.
In the interview, DeSantis dismissed recent criticism from Republican donors who appear increasingly disenchanted with the Florida Republican after supporting his re-election, including hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, a prolific GOP donor and former supporter of DeSantis who stays away.
“Here’s the thing: I’m a leader. I’m not a follower,” he said. “So we lead and we do what we think is right. And people may or may not support us financially, but you shouldn’t be driven by the desire to please very wealthy donors, and I’ve never done it that way. So, for example, the press said that he was angry with him in the fight with Disney over the school curriculum. We were right about the school curriculum, we defended the rights of parents in matters of education. And I’m not going to back down on that.
Asked to compare himself to Trump, DeSantis rattled off a list of differences, addressing their upbringing and youth while continuing to make pragmatic arguments about their ability to serve.
“We have a lot of differences,” he said. “He was born with great wealth. I’m a blue collar kid who had to work minimum wage to get where I was. You know, he did a lot of that, obviously, when he was young in business. You know, I volunteered to serve in Iraq and serve in the military. I could serve two terms. He would be a lame duck from day one. I ran 16 points better than him in Florida in my last race than him in his last race. I’ve also implemented these America First policies more than anyone else in the country, and I would have a much better chance of actually implementing all of this as president.