Editorial: ‘Anticipated pregnancy’? It’s one of many anti-vax loopholes

·4 min read

Florida’s new surgeon general already had no credibility when it comes to public health. Now the state has turned Joseph Ladapo into a supposed expert on childbearing.

Last week, Republicans passed and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that makes this an anti-COVID-19 vaccine state. Among many bad things, it undercuts vaccine requirements at private businesses by allowing exemptions not based on science.

Notably, a female worker can seek an exemption on the basis of “pregnancy or anticipated pregnancy.” The first is easy to define. But what is “anticipated?”

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health, which Ladapo oversees, dodged questions from the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board about details of that second definition. She referred us to the emergency rule the department issued.

The rule says that the exemption applies if “the employee intends to become pregnant” and is of child-bearing age. The exemption “shall remain in effect for the time that the employee intends to become pregnant.”

The rule also says, “Employers shall accept the representations of the employee in regard to the employee’s intent to become pregnant.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childbearing age runs from 15 to 44. Under the law, a 24-year-old woman can claim that she “intends to become to pregnant” — sincerely or not — and be exempt for two decades from COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Not only is that dangerously open-ended, but it’s dangerous for women who are pregnant and actually do anticipate having children.

As two professors of obstetrics wrote in the Sun Sentinel, pregnant women who contract COVID-19 are 15 times more likely to die and much more likely to have a premature birth than those who are vaccinated or don’t become infected. COVID-19 also increases the chance of a stillborn birth.

No credible research supports a link between COVID-19 vaccines and female infertility. Credible research supports a link between catching COVID-19 and male infertility and erectile dysfunction.

The loopholes don’t stop there.

The law also allows employees to claim an exemption based on a “sincerely held religious belief.” No verification from a clergy member is necessary. The employee simply can present a “statement.”

No major religion opposes COVID-19 vaccines. Some Floridians may seek an exemption by claiming that vaccines contain fetal cells. That is false.

One fetal cell line was used early to test the vaccines’ efficacy. A similar process led to development of Tylenol, Tums and many other over-the-counter treatments.

In addition, the law allows an exemption “based on COVID-19 immunity.” Many Republicans have embraced the unproven claim that contracting the virus obviates the need for a vaccination indefinitely.

COVID-19 patients have antibodies. Like the vaccines, however, that protection wanes. Antibody levels also can vary, based on age and the severity of the case.

The CDC has found that people who had COVID-19 and didn’t get a booster shot are five times more likely to get a second case than those who got vaccinated. For recovered patients, the CDC says, getting vaccinated provides a strong “hybrid immunity.”

When vaccines became available a year ago, DeSantis prioritized shots for Floridians 65 and over. He appeared at senior-living centers to tout the vaccine.

The DeSantis administration arranged “pop-up” vaccination sites in affluent communities where developers had ties to the Republican Party. DeSantis bragged about the state’s high rate of vaccinated elderly.

But despite recommendations that Americans age 65 and over get a third shot, DeSantis has not made boosters a priority. Far from it. The state ranks 38th in the percentage of seniors who have received a COVID-19 booster.

The governor displayed his recklessness last week, claiming, “COVID vaxxes are not preventing infections, OK? It’s just not.” That is false, as any credible public health specialist or epidemiologist will confirm.

Ladapo has no background in either field. That would explain why he said of the anti-vaccine mandate law, “You control your body. It is your body. God gave it to you. It’s your body.” So why wouldn’t he encourage Floridians to protect it — and to protect others?

It’s bad enough that DeSantis has opposed every measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the state with the third-most deaths. Now he, the surgeon general and Republican legislators are encouraging Floridians to avoid the best solution for finally controlling the pandemic.

So for women in Florida who are anticipating pregnancy and are wary of the COVID-19 vaccine, consider this: You can’t anticipate pregnancy if you’re dead.


The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Steve Bousquet, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Dan Sweeney, and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Editorials are the opinion of the Board and written by one of its members or a designee. To contact us, email at letters@sun-sentinel.com.