This is the conclusion of the Washington Post from DeSantis’s remarks yesterday, and I think they’re right:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a foe of vaccine mandates, appeared to suggest Thursday that getting a shot to protect against the coronavirus could cause infertility.
“Think about how ridiculous it is what they’re doing by trying to force the nurses” to get immunized, he said in a speech announcing funding for nursing certification programs. “A lot of these nurses have had covid. A lot of them are younger. Some of them are trying to have families.”
But there is no evidence that getting vaccinated against the coronavirus makes it harder to conceive, according to a study released Thursday of heterosexual couples trying for pregnancy. DeSantis could not be immediately reached for a comment on his remarks.
Some of my conservative friends think that the Post is engaged in a bit of mind-reading here, and that he was talking about the fact that job loss due to a vaccine mandate is difficult for a family contemplating having kids. My friend Joe Cunningham has a post at RedState where he supports this interpretation with the full DeSantis quote, which he believes exculpates DeSantis. Joe’s post is titled The Washington Post Invents a Vaccine Claim Ron DeSantis Didn’t Make. Here is his central argument (visit his post for the full argument and the links):
Nowhere in this quote does DeSantis suggest that getting the COVID-19 vaccine can affect fertility.
The speech, which was given at an event where DeSantis announced $2.3 million for nursing and vocational programs, focused on the critical medical worker shortage seen not just in Florida but around the country. The Post, as well as MSNBC and other outlets, are cutting off a key sentence from the DeSantis quote. A local outlet in Florida gives you the context you need.
“Think about how ridiculous it is what they’re doing by trying to force the nurses with these vaxes you know a lot of these nurses have had COVID, a lot of them are younger, some of them, they’re trying to have families, there’s a whole bunch of things that they have going on and so they don’t want to be forced to do it,” DeSantis said. “You see the shortages in there anyways, and now that is adding to it.”
In one sentence, it’s clear that DeSantis is talking about how vaccine mandates will only make a shortage of nurses worse. Young nurses who are wanting to get married and start families are getting let go because they aren’t getting vaccinated. It’s a controversial policy because on one hand, potentially spreading the virus from staff to patients is a medical and legal nightmare, but on the other hand, you’re looking at a shortage of nurses because of the virus and other circumstances already and letting more go only hurts the quality of care you can give.
DeSantis is looking at the mathematical equation here and deciding that it’s silly to look at a health care worker shortage and think “We need more barriers to work,” which is not an unreasonable conclusion to draw.
Interesting defense, but I think ultimately it does not hold water. Go back to the original DeSantis quote that the Washington Post cited as its evidence, and ask yourself: does he appear to be listing reasons it’s bad for nurses to lose their jobs — or he is listing reasons that people might not want to get vaccinated?
Think about how ridiculous it is what they’re doing by trying to force the nurses with these vaxes. You know, a lot of these nurses have had COVID, a lot of them are younger, some of them, they’re trying to have families, there’s a whole bunch of things that they have going on and so they don’t want to be forced to do it
DeSantis lists three factors he thinks are significant: 1) many of the nurses have had COVID already; 2) many of them are younger; and 3) some of them are trying to have families. The last phrase — “so they don’t want to be forced to do it” — to me is the key context showing why DeSantis is listing reasons people might want to forego vaccines. But even leaving that contextual phrase out of the mix, look at each of the factors.
The mention of their having had COVID is more consistent with him giving a list of reasons they do not want to be vaccinated than it is with him giving a list of reasons that being laid off will be tough on them. Why would having had COVID make it tougher for them to leave their job than someone who has not had COVID? He is citing COVID because he thinks natural immunity is a reason not to get the vaccine.
So is his mention of their being young. It’s easier to get another job as a young person than as an older person. Youth is not factor that aggravates the loss of a job. He cites youth not because he is listing reasons it sucks to lose your job; he is listing reasons people might legitimately (in his view) not want or need a vaccine. “So they don’t want to be forced to do it.” And one of those is that they want to have a family.
It is a suggestion that vaccination harms fertility. And this conclusion is only bolstered by his persistent refusal to say whether he is boosted.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is directly asked again whether he’s received his COVID booster shot:
“So that's something that I think people should make their own decisions on. I’m not gonna let that be a weapon for people to be able to use. I think it's a private matter …” pic.twitter.com/3GT2jkWda5
— The Recount (@therecount) January 21, 2022
This is a “gutless” (thank you, Donald Trump) pander to anti-vaxxers because of DeSantis’s presidential aspirations. That, too, is consistent with his citing a well-known conspiracy theory about vaccines and fertility.
Nice try at a defense, fellas, but I don’t buy it.
So far DeSantis has refused to comment on this. He may end up denying pushing the conspiracy theory — but if he does, I will see it as a walkback. Inevitably, if a clarifying comment is issued, is will be couched in a complaint about the awful liberal media. It will not be a convincing clarification. He will not explain why he cited COVID or youth as relevant factors. That will be the tell.