Florida Governor Says That White House Statement On Florida’s COVID Vaccine Doses Was ‘Disingenuous’

Roughly 900,000 Of About 1.4 million Unused Vaccine Doses Are Reserved As Second Doses For Residents Age 65 And Older.

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Photo: A pharmacist with Walgreens prepares a syringe with the COVID-19 vaccine for residents and staff Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, at the The Palace assisted living facility in Coral Gables, Fla.

Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky / AP

Published January 27, 2021

The Center Square [By John Haughey]-

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday it is “disingenuous” for President Joe Biden’s administration to claim Florida has only distributed half of the COVID-19 vaccine doses it has received from the federal government.

With about 900,000 of about 1.4 million unused vaccine doses reserved as second doses for residents age 65 and older who already have received their first inoculations, the governor said Florida will keep them in reserve.

“I think seniors want to make sure they have access to both shots, so we’re going to continue to do it,” DeSantis said during a visit to a Vero Beach Publix to announce 261 of the grocery chain’s pharmacies will offer vaccines for residents age 65 and older.

“We are going to have second doses for senior citizens,” DeSantis said, “and if the White House is suggesting we shouldn’t be doing that, I think that’s not a good suggestion.”

More than 1.4 million people statewide have received the first dose of the vaccine, according to the Florida Department of Health’s (FDOH) Tuesday vaccine report, which said 1.565 million doses have been administered in Florida.

Of the 1.4 million people inoculated, the FDOH said 1.25 million have received their first doses – including 906,000 over the age of 65 – and nearly 158,000 have received both doses required by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines’ two-shot regimens.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with more than 1.565 million shots in arms, 53% of the COVID-19 doses Florida has received from the federal government has been administered.

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Nearly 6.5% of the state’s 22.2 million residents have received the first shot and just under 1% have been inoculated twice, according to the CDC.

Florida’s 53% vaccine “usage rate” is the national average. North Dakota’s 84% “usage rate” is the nation’s most efficient, with Virginia’s 42% the lowest.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked Monday to respond to DeSantis’ criticism of Biden’s plan to use the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard to distribute vaccines, calling it “a big mistake” and vowing there would be no “FEMA camps” in Florida.

“I will note,” Psaki said, “because we’re data first, facts first here, that they’ve only distributed about 50% of the vaccines that they have been given in Florida. So, clearly, they have a good deal of the vaccine. That supply will need to continue to increase as they are able to effectively reach people across the state.”

Psaki’s comments drew a sharp retort Monday night from DeSantis spokesperson Meredith Beatrice, who demanded Psaki “present the facts” and correct “the misinformation from the White House regarding Florida’s vaccination numbers.”

“Despite the challenge of limited vaccine supply at the federal level, Gov. DeSantis has led the charge to create a robust and innovative infrastructure for vaccinations here in Florida, and we are prepared if and when additional vaccine comes,” Beatrice said.

DeSantis said earlier Monday in Jacksonville the state’s biggest vaccine rollout issue was sustaining enough supply to meet demand.

“We don’t have a big cache sitting around at the state,” DeSantis said. “We only get what they send us. The sole focus of the federal government should be increasing the first doses to the state.”

DeSantis said the state’s ability to get shots in arms “far outstrips what we are being given by the feds,” noting Florida is receiving about 266,000 first doses a week.

“We clearly have the capacity to do much, much more than that,” DeSantis said. “If we can get 500,000 a week, we’ll be able to vaccinate that many more seniors that much more quickly.”

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