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Lawmakers want action after reports West Palm Beach nursing home offered COVID-19 vaccine to wealthy donors

Gov. Ron DeSantis says inspector general is involved
Posted at 7:03 PM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 20:40:54-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Reports that a local nursing home offered the COVID-19 vaccine to wealthy donors has Florida lawmakers calling for action.

The Washington Post reports MorseLife Health System in West Palm Beach made the COVID-19 vaccine available to wealthy donors who donated to the facility, as well as board members. The New York Post reported similar allegations as well.

At a news conference Thursday in Vero Beach, Gov. Ron DeSantis said an investigation was underway into the allegations.

"When we found out about it ... we got the inspector general looking at it. The Department of Health is already investigating," DeSantis said, adding, "Put these seniors first. Put these elderly nursing home residents first."

Also Thursday, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., called for a Congressional investigation into the allegations.

In a statement released on Twitter, Scott wrote:

"It is absolutely disgusting and immoral that anyone would take vaccines intended for nursing homes to distribute them to their friends. I am calling for a full Congressional investigation into reports of improper vaccine distribution by MorseLife Health System."

MorseLife Health Systems offers services for hundreds of seniors in its care.

Contact 5 repeatedly contacted MorseLife for comment, both by phone and in-person, but received no response.

Annie Knapp is frustrated as she's been trying to make an appointment through the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County for a week. The 73-year old from Delray Beach told Contact 5 she's tried both on the phone and by sending emails.

"It's up to us to make the appointments, whereas a wealthy person contacts another wealthy person and says, 'Just come on, I've got some vaccines for you,'" Knapp said in an interview.

State Sen. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, whose district includes the MorseLife campus, said the offers reported by the Washington Post should not have occurred.

"We've got a situation with the 'have nots,' and the 'have gots' that we really shouldn't have," Powell told Contact 5.

Back in Delray Beach, the reports anger Knapp, who has an irregular heartbeat and wants a COVID-19 vaccination soon. She fears those who appear to be getting preferential treatment will only make her wait for the vaccine longer.

"If the wealthy can do this, they are putting the rest of us at risk," Knapp said.

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