Ron DeSantis seeks a grand jury investigation of COVID-19 vaccines – USA TODAY

SARASOTA, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he plans to petition the state’s Supreme Court to convene a grand jury to investigate “any and all wrongdoing” related to COVID-19 vaccines.
DeSantis made the announcement following a roundtable with Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo and a panel of scientists and physicians who expressed skepticism about the vaccines, the companies that manufacture them, and CDC recommendations saying everyone who’s eligible should receive the shots.
DeSantis, who is often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2024, gave no specifics on what wrongdoing the panel would investigate, but suggested it would search for evidence to bolster claims about harmful side effects.
“We’ll be able to get the data whether they want to give it or not,” DeSantis said. “In Florida, it is illegal to mislead and misrepresent, especially when you are talking about the efficacy of a drug.”
Vaccine studies funded by pharmaceutical companies that developed COVID-19 vaccines have been published in peer-reviewed journals like the New England Journal of Medicine, and government panels reviewed data on the safety and effectiveness of the shots before approving them for use.
DeSantis has long opposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates and earlier had questioned the value of the shots for children. This year, Florida became the first state to not recommend COVID-19 vaccines for healthy young people.
But Tuesday’s panel discussion was the governor’s most aggressive effort yet to raise concerns about vaccines that he initially promoted when they were first released.
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Statewide grand juries, usually comprised of 18 people, can investigate criminal activity and issue indictments but also examine systemic problems in Florida and make recommendations. Recent such panels have tackled immigration issues and school safety.
On Tuesday, multiple panelists suggested the risks of the COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the benefits for certain populations, and DeSantis also raised the issue.
“It seems like with the mRNA (vaccine)… it’s like if you raise any type of cost benefit, kind of the powers that be want to squelch that,” DeSantis said.
The CDC says the “benefits of the COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks” and recommends them for all eligible individuals age six months and older
DeSantis on Tuesday repeatedly posed the question to his panelists of whether the vaccines are “safe and effective,” as the CDC says. “The safe and effective terminology that’s been used… it’s a lie, it has to be,” said Dr. Joseph Fraiman, an emergency room physician in Louisiana.
DeSantis noted that Florida recently “got $3.2 billion through legal action against those responsible for the opioid crisis. So, it’s not like this is something that’s unprecedented.” That money came largely through lawsuits and settlements with drug makers, retailers and distributors.
DeSantis said he expects to get approval from the state supreme court for the statewide grand jury to be empaneled, likely in the Tampa Bay area.
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“That will come with legal processes that will be able to get more information and to bring legal accountability to those who committed misconduct,” DeSantis said.
In addition to questioning the safety of vaccines, DeSantis unveiled a pair of proposals to formally investigate some of his concerns about pandemic policy.
“There’s some people who want amnesty for things that happened during the pandemic… we’re not doing that here,” Ladapo said. 
The governor also announced plans to form a “public health integrity committee” that he billed as an effort to review recommendations made by federal health authorities and possibly push back against them.
“CDC will say these things and then people will think because they’re saying it we have to do it,” DeSantis said, adding: “So other governors and I have talked about the need to have a panel of experts who can counteract nonsense when it’s coming out of these institutions.”
The announcements and panel discussion Tuesday put DeSantis more squarely in line with COVID-19 vaccine skeptics as he considers running for president against Donald Trump, who oversaw the creation and early distribution of the vaccines.
In 2021, Trump was booed after telling a crowd at one of his rallies that he received the COVID-19 booster shot at the height of the pandemic. DeSantis has refused to say if he received the booster.
Contributing: The Associated Press