DeSantis Pledges to Hold Vaccine Manufacturers ‘Accountable’

Medical freedom activists hope the Florida governor will lead the country on issue
By Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern is a former reporter with The Epoch Times.
December 7, 2022Updated: December 9, 2022

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.

Epoch Times Photo
Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bills countering vaccine and mask mandates in Brandon, Fla., on Nov. 18, 2021. (Jannis Falkenstern/The Epoch Times)

“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.”

Epoch Times Photo
While speaking about vaccine injuries to the Orange County Commission on Nov. 15, 2022, Justin Harvey, of We Are Change Orlando, displays a prop indicating the topic is often avoided in conversation, making it like the proverbial “elephant in the room,” he says. (Courtesy of Lori Bontell)

Under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act of the federal Emergency Use Authorization, the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary issued several declarations that provide liability immunity for activities related to medical countermeasures against COVID-19, as long as they did not commit fraud.

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.”

The governor has called a five-day special session of the Florida Legislature on Dec. 12 to tackle issues with insurance companies related to paying for damage from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole.

But there’s been no mention of lawmakers taking on measures to hold vaccine manufacturers accountable for alleged injuries. It also hasn’t been mentioned whether legislators will consider reversing the law that gives hospitals immunity in treating COVID-19.

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.

Epoch Times Photo
Karen Mikalonis, a nurse who begged for COVID-19 treatments not allowed by the hospital where she sought care, died while family members fought a legal battle in court to obtain ivermectin and other medications she believed would help. (Courtesy of Lori Bontell)

In a text message, Bontell said that Florida’s law giving hospitals immunity in the treatment of COVID-19 needs to be repealed. The problem is that it requires hospitals to follow government protocols, in order to receive protection under the law.

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.”

When some Orange County firefighters faced threats of disciplinary action for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, Harvey started speaking at county commission meetings on their behalf. He also wanted to represent others who have been affected by the vaccine, he said.

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.

Epoch Times Photo
Orange County firefighter Stephen Davis speaks at a press conference on Oct. 13, 2022 in Kissimmee, Fla., saying he was fired for not punishing first responders he supervised for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine. (Nanette Holt/The Epoch Times)

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.”

In November 2021, DeSantis called Florida lawmakers to a special legislative session. Out of that came legislation prohibiting private employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccines.

“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?”

Businesses ignoring the laws can face fines ranging from $10,000 t0 $50,000 per incident. But some Floridians say they’re still facing discrimination or have been fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.

Jannis Falkenstern is a former reporter with The Epoch Times.