Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) threatened during a press conference on Wednesday to divert COVID vaccines from communities that take issue with his distribution efforts, according to The Hill.
DeSantis made the remarks at a news conference amid criticism that he arranged for seniors in two wealthy neighborhoods to be given priority vaccine access, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
“If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it,” DeSantis said. “We’re totally happy to do that.”
“If there’s going to be folks that are going to complain about getting more vaccines, you know, I’ll tell you what, I mean, I wouldn’t be complaining, I’d be thankful that we’re able to do it because, you know what, we didn’t need to do this at all,” DeSantis said.
The Bradenton Herald reported on Tuesday that DeSantis had reached out to a local developer and arranged a vaccination site exclusively for residents in the well-off neighborhoods of East Manatee and Lakewood Ranch.
Those communities happen to be “some of the wealthiest in Manatee County, with median income in both regions more than double the county’s overall median income,” according to the report. And they comprise only “about 8 percent of Manatee County’s overall 30,557 confirmed coronavirus cases.”
Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh confirmed that DeSantis sought to establish a vaccine site within District 5, which she represents. She said it was her decision to choose the particular ZIP codes.
DeSantis called Rex Jensen, the developer of the master-planned Lakewood Ranch community, last week about establishing a vaccination site in the area, according to Baugh. She said she worked with Jensen to finalize the details.
Commissioner Misty Servia said of the situation that “the optics are horrible.”
“We have people struggling with the virus. If we were going to pick and choose, I would hope it would go to the underserved populations and neighborhoods,” Servia added. “You’re taking the whitest demographic, the richest demographic in Manatee County and putting them before everyone else.”
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