LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent a stern message on Wednesday, threatening to send shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine elsewhere if counties don't want them.
It came during a news conference at a new COVID-19 vaccination site at Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch.
The pop-up site, which will administer 3,000 doses to patients, is controversial because it's only open to residents living in two particular zip codes in Manatee County.
"People are upset, specifically that it's homed in on those two zip codes," one reporter told DeSantis. "Who specifically made that choice to home in on those two zip codes?"
"It wasn't a choice about zip codes. It was a choice about, where's a high concentration of seniors where you could have communities provide the ability for them to go on," DeSantis answered. "It wasn't choosing one zip code over another."
The governer said the 3,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are supplementary to the 6,000 doses that Manatee County already receives from the state each week.
"If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it. And we’re totally happy to do that," DeSantis said. "So anyone that is saying that, let us know. If you want us to send it to Sarasota next time, or Charlotte, or Pasco, or wherever, let us know. We’re happy to do it."
The governor repeatedly told reporters that the decision to open the Lakewood Ranch site was strictly based on the high number of senior citizens living there.
"There's gonna be folks that are gonna complain about getting more vaccines. I'll tell you what, I wouldn't be complaining. I'd be thankful that we're able to do it!" DeSantis said. "We didn't need to do this at all. We saw a need, we want to get the numbers up for seniors. And so the logical thing was, let's go to where there's a high concentration of seniors."
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who earlier this week criticized DeSantis' handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, released this statement on Wednesday following the news conference:
"There is no reason that Governor DeSantis should be rationing vaccines based on political influence. This is troubling and potentially illegal. Vaccines should be distributed to counties based on need, capacity, and science. While I am disappointed in the Governor using vaccines as a political tool, I plan on working with the Biden Administration to ensure they do not penalize Floridians for his actions and continue to ramp up vaccine distribution to all communities, so that we can get our economy and state going again."
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, 2,487,055 people have received the COVID-19 vaccine in the Sunshine State.