By FREIDA FRISARO
MIAMI (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that he plans to petition the state’s Supreme Court to convene a grand jury to investigate “any and all wrongdoing” with respect to the COVID-19 vaccines.
The Republican governor, who is often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2024, gave no specifics on what wrongdoing the panel would investigate, but suggested it would be in part aimed to jogging loose more information about the vaccines and potential harmful side effects.
He made the announcement following a roundtable with Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo and a panel of scientists and physicians, in which some discussion centered on the fact that pharmaceutical companies have not provided their data on the COVID-19 vaccines to independent researchers.
“We’ll be able to get the data whether they want to give it or not,” DeSantis said. “In Florida, it is illegal to mislead and misrepresent, especially when you are talking about the efficacy of a drug.”
Statewide grand juries, usually comprised of 18 people, can investigate criminal activity and issue indictments but also examine systemic problems in Florida and make recommendations. Recent such panels have tackled immigration issues and school safety.
DeSantis noted that Florida recently “got $3.2 billion through legal action against those responsible for the opioid crisis. So, it’s not like this is something that’s unprecedented.” That money came largely through lawsuits and settlements with drug makers, retailers and distributors.
DeSantis said he expects to get approval from the Supreme Court for the statewide grand jury to be empaneled, likely in the Tampa Bay area.
“That will come with legal processes that will be able to get more information and to bring legal accountability to those who committed misconduct,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also announced he is creating an entity called the a “Public Health Integrity Committee,” which will include many of the physicians and scientists who participated in the roundtable on Tuesday.
He said that some people have lost faith in public health institutions, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the course of the pandemic. The governor has frequently spoken against CDC directives, including mask and vaccine mandates, and filed lawsuits to stop many from taking effect in Florida.