A comment made by Gov. Ron DeSantis during a private Republican Party of Florida event at the Florida Governor's Mansion has activists across the state abuzz with hope for change they've been requesting for more than a year.
"We are going to work to hold these manufacturers accountable for this mRNA because they said there was no side effect. And we know that there have been. A lot," DeSantis said at the Dec. 3 event in Tallahassee.
"And so we did a study in Florida and we saw an 86 percent increase in [problems in] cardiac-related activity from people 18 to 39 from mRNA shots. And so we're going to be doing some stuff to bring accountability there."
Guests listening broke into applause, as DeSantis made the remark. In a video obtained by The Epoch Times, the governor, clad in blue jeans and flanked by his wife, appeared to be speaking informally.
"This is something that we're going to lead on in Florida," DeSantis said. "So, we're going to have, probably, some announcements in the next three or four weeks on that."
His press secretary, Bryan Griffin, declined the next day to comment on the remarks, saying an official announcement would be made in the next week.
But the video, apparently made in secret by an attendee, quickly began to reach activists across the state. Those who've been clamoring for DeSantis to take action on what they call "medical freedom" issues say the governor's words have given them hope.
Justin Harvey, of We Are Change Orlando, has been trying to get elected officials to listen to his concerns about vaccine safety.
"I think we have the governor's attention" now, Harvey told The Epoch Times in a telephone interview. "We just really hope that they step in and use their tools and resources to help us."
Harvey wonders if the governor will file a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers.
"That's the million-dollar question right now," Harvey said. "Vaccine companies are very hard to take to court."
But DeSantis, he said, "has delivered. So I feel very optimistic about it."
If DeSantis makes good on his pledge to take on vaccine manufacturers, that would be an excellent first step, some activists told The Epoch Times. But more action was needed, they said.
Lori Bontell has been lobbying for change since her sister, a nurse, died while hospitalized for COVID-19. Her sister was refused access to treatments she requested, and was forced to receive treatments that she did not want, Bontell told The Epoch Times.
That leads to most hospitals strictly following treatments recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a result, most doctors won't consider following protocols requested by patients that don't follow CDC guidelines, she said.
"If DeSantis can go after the vaccine companies, he certainly can go after the hospitals, too," Bontell said via text. "All this evil prevails because these companies have immunity."
DeSantis, Bontell wrote, has an "opportunity to lead the country on this issue."
"DeSantis has the power and authority to get with our legislators for the emergency session and repeal the [hospital] immunity law now," she wrote.
Hospitals are "all about the money," she said. "They think they are untouchable because they have immunity, and honestly, they have been untouchable."
Bontell also hopes to make defending the vaccine-injured a "pro-life issue."
Ed Braddy, chairman of the Republican Executive Committee of Alachua County, heard the governor make the remarks and said he trusts the "DeSantis administration to make the right decision."
"I just think he's obviously got a good head on his shoulders," Braddy said of DeSantis. "He's made really smart and critically important decisions for Floridians."
Not all vaccines are bad, he added, but "where there is risk, there must be choice."
Now, he's organizing people who say they've been injured by COVID-19 vaccines, arranging for them to tell their stories publicly.
"We just want [lawmakers] to literally acknowledge that these people exist, stop treating them like lepers, and get their voices heard," Harvey said.
In his remarks at the Dec. 3 event, DeSantis acknowledged that Orange County firefighters and employees of Florida's City of Gainesville faced losing their jobs before he signed legislation prohibiting vaccine mandates in the state.
"We wouldn't let them mandate on you in Florida," the governor said. "We said, 'No,' because Orange County wanted to fire firefighters. Gainesville wanted to fire people. Even Disney wanted to fire.
"We said, 'No' across the board, so everybody had the ability to opt-out of anything they were trying to impose on you."
"But there are other people around the country that got forced to take this. And then what?" DeSantis asked. "They're not allowed to sue? Or get any kind of recourse, when this is not something they wanted to do?"