Everything you need to know about Ron DeSantis 4:31
(CNN) -- Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that if elected president, he will not fund more covid-19 vaccines for Americans.
"We're certainly not going to fund them," the Florida governor said during a wide-ranging interview with ABC News that was taped Wednesday from Midland, Texas, where he announced his national energy policy.
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The comment came as DeSantis, a Republican, has intensified his attacks in recent weeks against former President Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner for the presidential nomination, over his administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a presidential hopeful, DeSantis has regularly warned that mandates and restrictions would return, if the government has the chance.
"The hint is that they wouldn't hesitate to do it again. Well, when I'm president, we're not going to let that happen. We're going to hold people accountable and we're going to make sure that in America you are never pressured by a health bureaucrat trying to take away your freedom," DeSantis said in Spencer, Iowa, in late August.
Last month, President Joe Biden said he had "given the go-ahead" to a proposal to request more funding for the covid-19 response, including funding for the development of new vaccines. Although the end of the federal public health emergency in May means the U.S. government no longer covers the cost of covid-19 vaccines for most Americans, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last month that it allocated more than $1.400 billion for the development of new vaccines and therapeutics as part of the $5 billion Project NextGen initiative.
Last week, DeSantis held a roundtable discussion on the new Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, in which his chief health officer advised against administering them to those under 65.
In the ABC interview, DeSantis reiterated in his state's recent guidelines that advise against its administration to those under 65, contradicting the recommendations of federal health authorities.
The governor said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cannot be trusted, a response that prompted a lengthy live clarification of the scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of covid-19 vaccines from the ABC anchor, Linsey Davis.
"How well has the CDC done, with all due respect, in recent years?" said DeSantis. "How many people trust the CDC at this point? Five years ago, if someone had said, 'Here's what the CDC says,' it would have carried a lot of weight for me. I was in the trenches during covid-19. They cited unreliable studies saying masks would stop it. They cited unreliable studies on mRNA injections."
DeSantis dismissed recent criticism from Republican donors who seem increasingly disenchanted with the Florida Republican after they supported his re-election, including hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, a prolific GOP donor and one-time DeSantis supporter, who remains on the sidelines.
"Here's the thing: I'm a leader. I'm not a follower," he said. "Therefore, we lead and do what we believe is right. And people can support us or not support us financially, but we must not get carried away by the desire to please very rich donors, and I have never acted like that. Thus, for example, it has come out in the press that he has been angry with him in the dispute with Disney over the school curriculum. We were right about the school curriculum, we defended the rights of parents in education. And I'm not going to back down on that."
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Asked to draw a contrast with Trump, DeSantis listed a list of differences, referencing his upbringing and early adulthood, while making pragmatic arguments about his ability to serve.
"We have a lot of differences," he said. "He was born in the midst of great wealth. I am a blue-collar worker who had to work for minimum wage to get where I am. Obviously, he did a lot in business, from a young age. I volunteered to serve in Iraq and in the military. I could serve two terms. He would be an outgoing president from day one. In Florida, in my last campaign, I won by 16 points more than him. I've also complied with these 'America First' policies, I think more than anyone else in the country, and I would have a much better chance of delivering on all of this as president."
Ron DeSantiscovid-19 vaccine