Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is catching heat over his decision to prioritize distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to rich, white Republicans.
In response to the criticism, DeSantis has threatened to divert vaccines from communities that feel some way about his political favoritism of the”whitest and richest” zip codes.
“If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it and we’re totally happy to do that,” DeSantis said, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “So anyone that’s saying that, let us know, if you want us to send it to Sarasota next time or Charlotte or Pasco or wherever, let us know; we’re happy to do it.”
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His remarks come amid backlash over an exclusive pop-up vaccination center in Lakewood Ranch, a wealthy retirement community on Florida’s Gulf coast. The clinic reportedly serves only conservative residents from two zip codes. Per the Sun-Sentinel, similar sites were launched for the elderly at the Kings Point community in Palm Beach County, Sun City Center in Hillsborough and The Villages retirement community.
“You’re taking the whitest and richest demographic in Manatee County and putting them ahead of everyone else,” County Commissioner Misty Servia said in a meeting, per Fox 13 Tampa Bay. Servia is reportedly one of several Republicans to call out DeSantis for rolling out vaccination programs in Republican-leaning counties.
“It does compromise our system. It does pit people against each other,” she said, noting that the governor’s actions are fueling the idea that Manatee County has “a racism problem.” She noted that the zip codes targeted to receive the shot represent “the whitest demographic, the richest demographic in Manatee County, and putting them ahead of everyone else.”
Servia told the Bradenton Herald on Tuesday, “For the life of me, I can’t understand why we would vaccinate the most affluent neighborhoods in the county ahead of everyone else, especially the underserved neighborhoods and large number of manufactured home parks in our community.”
Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz called DeSantis “vile” and “callous” for threatening to hold back vaccinations from those who disagree with his distribution process.
“To threaten that he would pull vaccine if people don’t like the way the distribution system is working is vile and shows the callous indifference he has had in how the vaccine has been handled,” Schultz said.
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“There is no reason that Gov. DeSantis should be rationing vaccines based on political influence,” said Democrat Nikki Fried said in a statement. “This is troubling and potentially illegal. Vaccines should be distributed to counties based on need, capacity, and science.”
When pressed about whether his vaccine distribution selection was a political move, DeSantis said Wednesday, “It wasn’t a choice about ZIP codes, it was a choice about where’s a high concentration of seniors where you could have communities provide the ability for them to go.”
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