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Ladapo suggests link between cardiac arrest and COVID vaccine for USC basketball players

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Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo recently took to social media to suggest a link between two basketball players' cardiac arrests and the COVID-19 vaccine.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo took to social media to suggest a link between two basketball players' cardiac arrests and the COVID-19 vaccine. But one expert said public health officials carry a responsibility to be careful about what they say.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo recently posted on X, previously known as Twitter, that two USC basketball players who suffered cardiac arrests "almost certainly were forced or misled" into taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

One of those players was NBA star Lebron James' son, Bronny James.

In a follow-up post, Ladapo cited a Swiss study, and said data from the state supported his claim.

While the Swiss study found vaccine-related heart issues are more common than previously thought, it also said the problems were "mild and transient," and found more frequently in women versus men.

But University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi said it's up to scientists to prove there is a link between the vaccine and severe illness like Ladapo suggested.

"If somebody dies of cancer tomorrow, it's inevitable that some of those people will have recently been vaccinated," he said. "The key is, we need to make sure before we speculate that it's due to the COVID-19 vaccines, we need to do our research and look and see if it actually is."

Over 200 million people have received a COVID-19 vaccination in the United States.

Salemi said it is important to remember that people are still being hospitalized or dying from a myriad of other reasons.

"People are dying every day from heart disease, from cancer, people are having cardiac arrest, those things don't stop," he explained. "The COVID-19 vaccines were designed to reduce the likelihood of severe illness from COVID, not to prevent all of the other things that people die from."

He added that officials should be exercising due diligence, making sure of a causal link before speculating.

"If there is (a link), we absolutely should be acting on that," Salemi said. "But if there is not, then we're maybe unnecessarily scaring people."

Miguel Reina Ortiz has a collaborative appointment with the University of South Florida College of Public Health. He is also an associate professor with Boise State University School of Public and Population Health.

Public health officials carry a responsibility to be careful about what they say, Ortiz said.

"The general public thinks, 'Okay, well, this person must know what they're talking about because of what they do professionally,'" he said.

Ortiz added that it is important for health officials to do outreach using evidence-based information.

For drugs that have reported adverse effects, Ortiz said there is a field called pharmacovigilance that investigates claims, even if the event is not related to the medicine.

“There is a robust system to detect complications," Ortiz said. "And when those complications warrant a product being taken off the market, it does get taken off the market.”

Nothing about my life has been typical. Before I fell in love with radio journalism, I enjoyed a long career in the arts in musical theatre.