The only statewide Democratic elected official in Florida, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, accused Gov. Ron DeSantis of making a political decision over who has been allowed to have access to the COVID-19 vaccine recently in the state.
DeSantis held a press conference at a vaccination event near Lakewood Ranch, an upscale community on Florida’s Gulf Coast, where he was peppered with questions from reporters.
The pop-up site, which will administer 3,000 doses to patients, is only open to residents living in two particular zip codes in Manatee County, after DeSantis worked with a county commissioner to set it up.
The vaccination event was the latest in a series of state-sponsored clinics at retirement communities and under DeSantis’ “Seniors First” initiative, the COVID-19 vaccine is being made available to everyone age 65 and over in Florida — an estimated 4.5 million people.
Fried said in a statement after the press conference that she believes “There is no reason that Governor DeSantis should be rationing vaccines based on political influence. This is troubling and potentially illegal. Vaccines should be distributed to counties based on need, capacity, and science.”
“While I am disappointed in the Governor using vaccines as a political tool, I plan on working with the Biden Administration to ensure they do not penalize Floridians for his actions and continue to ramp up vaccine distribution to all communities, so that we can get our economy and state going again,” Fried added.
Nikki Fried has also released a minute-long video attacking the governor’s overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic and potentially might challenge him for re-election.
DeSantis lashed out after one reporter’s question and said, “If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this. then we are totally fine putting this in counties that want it. We’re totally happy to do that.”
Commissioners in Manatee County expressed concern because they claim that the event favored wealthy neighborhoods over underserved communities.
Democratic State Sen. Annette Taddeo criticized DeSantis as well and suggested the governor owes residents of Manatee County an apology and said, “Veiled threats should not and cannot be tolerated by any public official.”
Manny Diaz, the new head of Florida’s Democratic Party, demanded that DeSantis stop “playing politics” with vaccine distribution and suggested that “Threatening retribution and less vaccine access for communities that criticize the vaccine rollout for its problems is shameful and inhumane.”
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