Anti-vaccine message greets drivers on I-95 Sunday morning

Banner went up Sunday morning on pedestrian bridge over I-95. (WJXT/Leeann Walker)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Anyone driving Interstate 95 on Jacksonville’s Southside on Sunday morning might have seen a banner across the highway reading “COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers are exempt from liability.”

The banner, part of what the group said was an international effort, was put up on one of the busiest days of the year. By afternoon, the banner was gone.

The demonstration was organized by Florida Freedom Keepers, which has opposed mask mandates and other aspects of public health efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic as an infringement on personal liberties.

Florida Freedom Keepers said there are several concerns over the safety of rushed-to-market COVID-19 vaccines and saying they will be exempt from liability under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act.

“All medical procedures require informed consent. Vaccination is no different, but the reality is vaccines are routinely administered without informing the recipient of severe and acknowledged risks,” The group wrote in a statement to News4Jax. “A fast-tracked COVID-19 vaccine means no long term and limited safety studies, with the potential for severe adverse reactions.”

The anti-vaccine protest comes as the Food and Drug Administration is potentially weeks away from granting emergency-use approval for vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna that could reach Florida hospitals -- including UF Health in Jacksonville -- before the end of the year.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said the vaccine will not be mandated in Florida.

While national polling had shown about half of people were unwilling to get a COVID-19 vaccine right way, a Gallup poll released in mid-November found the percentage of people willing to get the shot had increased to 58%.

There is an antivaccine movement in the United States that expresses concern for years about all vaccines and sometimes spreads wrong or unconfirmed information about adverse effects.

About the Author:

A Florida-born, Emmy Award winning journalist and proud NC A&T SU grad