Press secretary for Obama administration slams Florida gubernatorial candidate over criticism over Big Bird ‘cut’ in minimum wage
Sarah Sanders, the press secretary for President Trump, has waded into the debate over a Florida gubernatorial candidate who appeared to oppose requiring kids to be vaccinated by citing the cost of the Big Bird license plate.
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“Governor DeSantis told an anti-vaccination radio show host that getting rid of the Big Bird license plate is ‘absolutely critical’ to efforts to end the ‘stigma around vaccinations’,” Sanders tweeted on Wednesday. “Obviously I’m not in any danger.”
The Big Bird license plate was created in 2012 by the American Childhood Immunization Coalition and Florida agriculture department in partnership with the Florida Power and Light Company, which was then known as Progress Energy. The goal was to encourage people to purchase the plate when the school year started in elementary schools so they would not miss a day of school due to an illness.
The group fundraised for the plate with the hope of raising enough money for American children to receive two free vaccines – varicella (chickenpox) and Hantavirus (diphtheria) – twice a year. According to the group, the special plate made possible the state’s efforts to increase the number of children getting the two vaccinations.
“There is no exemption in Florida for parents to not vaccinate their children,” said Jerri Ward, a health policy analyst for the American Federation of Teachers, which endorsed DeSantis for the governor’s seat. “My sister works at Disney World, and she’s vaccinated.
“The legislator isn’t questioning the benefits of vaccinations. He’s suggesting parents need to make the decision to vaccinate themselves. To suggest that somebody who might be seeking insurance coverage for their child might not be inclined to vaccinate themselves is a red herring.”
Paula J. Slater, a spokeswoman for Florida healthcare non-profit Florida Academy of Family Physicians, said that she was aware of the issue in 2012 but could not recall whether state legislature heard of it when they considered the issue of relaxing vaccine requirements in a legislative hearing.
According to health advocacy data from the Florida Health Advocation Network, vaccination coverage of kindergartners in Florida was 90.5% as of 2018. The Florida vaccination rate is above the national average of 90.3%.
“The governor’s statements show he’s unfit to serve as governor of Florida and he is a cold-hearted and unsympathetic man,” Slater said.
• This article was amended on 11 October 2020. A previous version referred to Florida license plates and not “voter identification”. This has been corrected.