COVID-19 vaccines: DeSantis says he prioritizes seniors; Wasserman Schultz says ‘that’s baloney’

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Florida Democrats said they want Gov. Ron DeSantis to stop bragging about the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and to fix the problems with the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

When former President Donald Trump’s administration recommended that states give priority for the COVID-19 vaccines to essential workers, DeSantis gave priority to seniors age 65 and older who have had a higher mortality rate during the pandemic.

“We put seniors first and other states followed,” DeSantis said on Thursday, adding Florida has vaccinated nearly 1.1 million seniors, representing more than 24% of the state’s “enormous elderly population.”

Seniors in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have reported a struggle to get an appointment and long-waits at distribution sites. DeSantis said Florida has 77 community vaccination sites.

“The governor is saying that you know, he is ‘the champion of seniors’ and he is putting seniors’ safety first, that’s baloney,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.

Jared Moskowitz, the director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, released a statement on Thursday praising DeSantis’ “dedication to Floridians.”

Moskowitz also told a legislative committee on Thursday that the distribution infrastructure in Florida is not an issue; the lack of vaccine shipments is. He also said President Joe Biden “has inherited a mess.”

Moskowitz also reported the state completed the vaccination campaign at long-term care facilities, including about 4,000 nursing homes and 3,000 assisted living facilities. He also said Florida continues to open vaccination sites.

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, said his constituents are extremely upset with the way DeSantis has handled the distribution of the vaccine.

“We want to fix this,” Deutch said.

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About the Authors:

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.