Special Olympics drops vaccine rule after Florida threatens $27M fine

Published: June 4, 2022 4:21 AM EDT
Updated: June 4, 2022 4:25 AM EDT
After the state threatened to impose a $27.5 million fine, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that the Special Olympics USA Games will not have a COVID-19 vaccination requirement next week in Orlando.
FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at Miami's Freedom Tower, on May 9, 2022. The Special Olympics has dropped a coronavirus vaccine mandate for its games in Orlando after Florida moved to fine the organization $27.5 million for violating a state law against such rules. DeSantis, on Friday, June 3, 2022, announced that the organization had removed the requirement for its competition in the state, which is scheduled to run June 5 to June 12. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File)

After the state threatened to impose a $27.5 million fine, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that the Special Olympics USA Games will not have a COVID-19 vaccination requirement next week in Orlando.

The Florida Department of Health sent a notice Thursday to Special Olympics International threatening to assess the fine for 5,500 violations of a state prohibition on vaccination mandates.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who doubles as secretary of the Department of Health, said the state had worked with Special Olympics officials for six months to resolve the vaccination issue.

“How can you force people to take a vaccine in order to stop transmission when that vaccine is not effective at stopping transmission?” Ladapo said during an appearance with DeSantis in Orlando.

DeSantis and Ladapo have long criticized COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

Florida lawmakers last year made permanent a ban on so-called vaccine “passports.”

That followed DeSantis issuing an executive order to prohibit businesses from requiring people to show they had been vaccinated to gain entry.

The law authorized the department to impose $5,000 fines per individual required to show proof of vaccination.

The Department of Health letter pointed to 5,500 people being required to show proof of vaccination to gain entry to the games.

The CDC says vaccines help protect people from getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.