Florida Department of Health suspends medical director after he sent email encouraging staff to get vaccinated

Dr. Raul Pino, the state health officer in Orange, speaks on the current COVID-19 infection rate in the county during a news briefing at the Orange County Administration Building on August 9, 2021.

A top health official in Florida was suspended after being critical of his staff’s vaccination rate.
Dr. Raul Pino told staff in an email that it was “irresponsible” not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 
Florida’s Department of Health said it’s investigating whether any laws were broken.

The Florida Department of Health suspended a top medical director on Tuesday after he sent an email to staffers encouraging them to get vaccinated.

Dr. Raul Pino, the director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, wrote in a January 4 email that he was concerned that only 219 out of 568 staff members had received two doses of the vaccine, the Associated Press and Central Florida News reported.

“I am sorry but in the absence of reasonable and real reasons, it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated,” Pino wrote, the AP reported. “We have been at this for two years, we were the first to give vaccines to the masses, we have done more than 300,000 and we are not even at 50% — pathetic.”

“I have a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it,” he added, Central Florida News reported.

The Florida Department of Health confirmed that Pino was put on administrative leave and said it will be investigating whether any laws were broken by sending the email.

“As the decision to get vaccinated is a personal medical choice that should be made free from coercion and mandates from employers, the employee in question (Pino) has been placed on administrative leave,” Department of Health press secretary Jeremy Redfern said in a statement, News 6 reported.

Last year Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis barred government agencies and private businesses from implementing vaccine mandates.

Around 64% of Floridians have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to government data, which gets published every Friday.

Pino, who was appointed the role in 2019, was a trusted figure during Florida’s pandemic response. 

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