Gov. Ron DeSantis and Hernando County’s top Republican lawmaker defended Florida’s coronavirus vaccine rollout on Wednesday, saying the state is a national leader in the effort and touting the lack of a detailed plan as a plus.
“We are approaching this pandemic in ways that other states are not,” state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia said at a news conference in Brooksville where DeSantis announced a new vaccination site for seniors 65 and older.
“What other states are getting wrong, I believe that this governor is getting right.”
Two things make Florida stand out when it comes to the vaccine rollout: It’s one of only two states to prioritize residents 65 and older in its first phase of distribution, and it’s the only state that hasn’t told residents specifically who will get vaccines after that group.
Critics have said the latter distinction has caused confusion and added to the uncertainty surrounding vaccines.
On Tuesday, the governor suggested that teachers and law enforcement officers 50 and older will get access to shots next. But he offered no additional details, using the words “probably” and “I think” to describe who would be eligible.
Facing questions Wednesday from reporters, DeSantis said details about shots for teachers and police won’t be announced until next week.
He did not answer a question about Florida’s lack of a comprehensive distribution plan. Instead, he touted the state’s rate of vaccination for seniors and criticized other states for updating their plans over time.
“If you notice, a lot of those (states) adopted plans, and then they’ve already had to change the plans,” DeSantis said. “We haven’t done that.”
Ingoglia praised DeSantis for prioritizing seniors and making sure they get shots, saying that other states have started following his lead.
As of this week, Florida had vaccinated nearly 2 million of its residents ages 65 and older, state data shows. About 75 percent of the 2.7 million shots administered in the state had gone to that group.
Other groups identified as priorities for vaccination by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — like essential workers and people younger than 65 who have underlying medical conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19 — are still waiting not just on shots, but on clear information about when they might receive them.
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