Orange County health officer Dr. Raul Pino on leave, under state inquiry involving vaccines

Health department statement mentions state ban on vaccine mandates for government workers

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dr. Raul Pino, the director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County who has been so visible during the pandemic, is on administrative leave pending an inquiry, the Florida Department of Health confirmed to News 6 Tuesday.

“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 (Pino) 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,” FDOH press secretary Jeremy Redfern said in a statement.

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“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,” the statement added.

The health department did not offer any details into what led to the decision.

News 6 reached out to the state in reference to an email Pino allegedly sent to department staff encouraging employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Christina Pushaw, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ spokeswoman, sent News 6 a copy of the email Wednesday which she said she obtained from Redfern.

“I have a hard time understanding how can we be in public health and not practice it! The reasons can be many, but so many of us?” the email said.

In the email, “vaccination data” for 568 department employees in Orange County returned with only 219 two-shot and 77 booster recipients on record, as well as a scathing rebuke of the low numbers.

“I am sorry, but at this point in the absence of reasonable and real reasons, it is irresponsible no to be vaccinated,” the email said. “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 (OC DOH) and we are not even at 50%, pathetic.”

As the health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, Pino has been front and center in providing the latest updates on COVID-19 and vocal on the need to adhere to COVID-19 protocols and get the community vaccinated.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings released a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Pino has been with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County since May 2019.

This is a developing story. Check back for the latest.

About the Author:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.