Rick Scott: Florida vaccine distribution should be investigated. Is it a jab at DeSantis?

Both Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis have called for investigations into a south Florida assisted living facility.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, left, shakes hands with gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis as he introduces him to supporters in 2018.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, left, shakes hands with gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis as he introduces him to supporters in 2018. [ Associated Press ]
Published Jan. 7, 2021|Updated Jan. 7, 2021

TALLAHASSEE — Sen. Rick Scott has called for a federal investigation into Florida’s coronavirus vaccine distribution, citing reports that donors of a south Florida nursing home are being offered life-saving shots ahead of the general public.

According to the Washington Post, an executive at the West Palm Beach’s MorseLife Health System called donors and members of the assisted living facility’s board to offer them vaccinations while millions of elderly and vulnerable Floridians struggled to get access to the shots. Scott, Florida’s governor from 2011-2019, called the details of the report “disgusting,” “immoral” and evidence of “gross mismanagement.”

“We have to do everything possible to get this vaccine out in an efficient and fair manner, and I am calling for a full Congressional investigation into reports of improper vaccine distribution,” Scott said in a statement.

Ron DeSantis, Scott’s successor, was asked a question about the report Wednesday at a news conference in Pensacola. He demurred then, saying, “I’m not sure about that.”

On the same day, however, DeSantis directed the governor’s office chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, to investigate the claims in the report.

“The Governor took swift action yesterday on this matter,” DeSantis spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice wrote in an email Thursday. It’s unclear when exactly DeSantis did so Wednesday.

At a news conference in Vero Beach Thursday, when DeSantis was asked about Scott’s call for an investigation, DeSantis noted the state was already investigating.

The forceful call from Scott is the latest example of tension between the two men. The two Republicans clashed last year over the state’s failing unemployment system, with each pointing a finger at the other for the debacle. After Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Scott sent a letter to all 50 governors asking for a detailed breakdown of how states spent the federal money. Months later, few had responded; DeSantis was not one of them.

When asked whether Scott’s news release was meant to imply criticism of DeSantis, a Scott spokesman did not respond.

Up ahead for both is 2024, when Scott and DeSantis are considered to be presidential hopefuls.

Thursday, more Florida news outlets published more reports of the well-connected getting early access to the vaccine. The Sun-Sentinel reported that some high-end medical practices in Palm Beach County got their own share of vaccinations to give to presumably wealthy patients. And the Miami Herald cited three hospital chains in south Florida who gave vaccinations to board members — although neither news organization found evidence that those who got shots were younger than 65.

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State guidelines say the first doses of the vaccines should go to residents older than 65, front line health care workers, first responders, staff and residents at long term care facilities and those who hospitals deem to be especially vulnerable to the virus.