University colleagues of Joseph Ladapo, MD, are charging that the Florida Surgeon General relied on a flawed analysis and likely violated the school’s research integrity rules when he recommended against COVID vaccination in young men last fall.
A detailed critique from a University of Florida (UF) College of Medicine faculty task force alleges that the analysis of Florida Department of Health (FDOH) data — which was not peer-reviewed and had no named authors — had significant statistical and methodological problems.
“A recommendation to withhold COVID-19 mRNA vaccines for certain age groups should be supported by a careful risk-benefit analysis. Such an analysis could have been performed, and indeed has been performed by the U.S. and other governments, and by academics,” they wrote. “Conversely, Dr. Ladapo’s FDOH analysis and associated policy are of highly questionable merit.”
The report was sent to the university’s Office of Research Integrity, Security and Compliance, according to the Washington Post, which first reported on the document.
However, David Norton, vice president for UF Research, confirmed in an emailed statement to MedPage Today that the office will not conduct an investigation.
“As this work was done by Dr. Joseph Ladapo in his role as the state of Florida Surgeon General and not in his role as a UF faculty member, the UF Office of Research Integrity, Security and Compliance has no standing to consider the allegations or concerns regarding research integrity set forth in the Faculty Council task force report,” Norton said in the statement. “The UF Research office continues to strongly support the freedom afforded to university researchers to independently pursue topics and present findings, as well as to provide critiques of scientific research and related policy.”
Ladapo joined the UF College of Medicine faculty in 2021, when he was appointed as the state’s Surgeon General by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Controversy subsequently arose that the university had violated its own hiring procedures when granting Ladapo a tenured position, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
That article stated that Ladapo would make $262,000 a year as a professor, plus $75,000 for a role focused on developing policies to reduce healthcare disparities. Between his university positions and his role as Surgeon General, Ladapo would make $437,000 per year, according to the article.
Under Ladapo’s direction, Florida has broken with federal recommendations on COVID vaccination numerous times. Last spring, Ladapo recommended against vaccinating healthy kids ages 5 to 17, and last summer, he recommended against their use in kids under 5.
The FDOH analysis released in October reported an 84% increase in the relative incidence of cardiac-related deaths in men ages 18 to 39 within 28 days of mRNA vaccination, and based on those findings, Ladapo recommended against mRNA vaccination in this age group.
The faculty task force report outlines seven specific flaws, which includes the fact that the relative incidence estimate was “barely significant” at a lower bound of 1.05, and would probably not be significant if the authors followed “standard statistical practice” and corrected for the large number of tests that were performed.
Ladapo’s UF colleagues also charged that a self-controlled case series doesn’t balance the risks and benefits of vaccination, and therefore can’t be used to inform public policy. In addition, creating and testing a hypothesis using the same data, as was done in the analysis, is a “misuse of statistics,” they wrote.
Other problems with the analysis include very low case numbers in certain age groups, cherry-picked results, and ignoring published findings on the relationship between myocarditis and COVID vaccines, they wrote.
This isn’t the first time faculty members have spoken out against a colleague’s COVID-related claims. In 2020, the Stanford Faculty Senate condemned actions by radiologist Scott Atlas, MD, related to his time as a coronavirus advisor to former President Donald Trump.
Those researchers, however, stopped short of asking university leadership to investigate possible sanctions against Atlas.