Florida Put a Health Director on Leave for Saying People Should Get Vaccinated

Dr. Raul Pino told his employees that he had “a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it.”
Pramote Polyamate/Getty Images​
Pramote Polyamate/Getty Images

The top public health official in Orlando was placed on administrative leave after sending an email encouraging health department employees to get vaccinated, the Florida Department of Health confirmed Tuesday. 

Dr. Raul Pino, the Florida Department of Health’s state health director in Orange County—one of the top tourist destinations in the U.S.—sent an email on Jan. 4 saying he had “a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it,” according to Orlando TV station WFTV


In the email to Orange County Department of Health staff, Pina reportedly pointed to numbers showing that fewer than half of the department’s more than 550 employees were fully vaccinated, and just 77 had received a booster shot.

“I am sorry but in the absence of reasonable and real reasons it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated,” Pino reportedly wrote in the email. “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 [sic].”

Despite his role as the lead public health official in Orange County, Pino is an employee of the Florida Department of Health. He was appointed to the position in May 2019; before that, he was the deputy director of the Connecticut Department of Health, according to his bio on the Florida Department of Health website. 

The Florida Department of Health confirmed Wednesday that Pino had been placed on administrative leave, and said they were “conducting an inquiry to determine if any laws were broken.”

“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 has been placed on administrative leave, and the Florida Department of Health is conducting an inquiry to determine if any laws were broken in this case,” the agency told WFTV.

“The Department is committed to upholding all laws, including the ban on vaccine mandates for government employees and will take appropriate action once additional information is known.”


Legislation signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in November bans government entities (and others) from mandating that employees get vaccinated. DeSantis, a Republican, has long been one of the country’s most prominent in criticizing vaccine and mask mandates.

Pino did not immediately respond to a message from VICE News requesting comment. 

But though DeSantis himself is vaccinated, he’s also thrown in with the anti-vaxxer wing of the Republican Party, appointing COVID vaccine and mitigation skeptic Dr. Joseph Ladapo as Florida surgeon general and refusing to answer questions about whether he got a booster shot

Last week, DeSantis—who was endorsed in his first run for governor by then-President Donald Trump—said in an interview that he was wrong not to speak out “much louder” against Trump’s call for lockdowns in March 2020. 

More than 63,000 Floridians have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began

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