Watch CBS News

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis faces criticism over COVID-19 vaccine distribution

DeSantis faces criticism over vaccine access
Florida governor faces criticism over granting special access to COVID-19 vaccines 02:26

In Manatee County, Florida, this week, thousands of people got called to come to the affluent Lakewood Ranch development and get a coronavirus vaccine. It was a call many had been waiting for.

"We were very fortunate, we got the call, we came right down," one woman told CBS News' Jim Axelrod.

It was more than good fortune. Those who received the call all lived in two specific zip codes. Their doses came through a deal struck by Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and the CEO of Lakewood Ranch's parent company, owned by major Republican donors.

Manatee County Commissioner Misty Servia said in a county meeting that the deal bypassed county protocol, allowing a select group of residents to go the front of the vaccine line.

"So rather than this randomized pool where everybody gets a fair shake, these two zip codes were going to receive preferential treatment," she said.

At a county meeting, Servia, who is also a Republican, told the room that the optics are horrible.

The zip codes are two of the county's wealthiest and whitest, and they're in the bottom half of COVID-19 rates countywide.

"It's just wrong. I mean, that's the bottom line," said Patrick Carnegie said, who runs MCR Health, the region's largest primary care provider, which has been assisting in administrating COVID-19 vaccines.

"We want to make sure that the process is done fair, and it's done, you know, equitably across the board," he said.

According to Florida state guidance, long-term care facility residents and staff, healthcare workers in direct contact with COVID-19 patients, including paramedics and EMS, and people age 65 and older are eligible to get vaccinated.  

DeSantis said on Wednesday he was trying to get the vaccine to a high concentration of seniors. But in a county full of seniors, he never explained why the doses were limited to just this group. He threatened to take the shots elsewhere.

"If Manatee County doesn't like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it. We're totally happy to do that," DeSantis said.

The governor is also under scrutiny for selecting the supermarket chain, Publix, to be the sole distributor of vaccines in a handful of Florida counties following a $100,000 donation the company made to DeSantis' reelection PAC.

Servia is now facing criticism from her own party, saying she should be "ashamed" that she "took a page out of the Biden playbook in attacking Florida and ... Governor DeSantis."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.