DeSantis encourages vaccination to fight Delta variant, critics call for more effort

'There's been a lot of talk about variants leading up to this,' DeSantis says. 'I think it gets put out there in ways designed to frighten people.'
Posted at 5:58 PM, Jun 15, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As a more transmissible version of COVID-19 grows in the U.S., Florida's governor said Tuesday those concerned should get vaccinated.

"The best thing you can do if you haven't gotten a vaccine, particularly if you're somebody who's older, particularly if you have any health problems, is to get a shot," DeSantis said.

DeSantis said available shots are effective against the Delta variant, according to recent research. It's about 40 to 60% more transmissible than current strains.

The mutation caused a surge in cases among unvaccinated overseas. Places like the U.K. have resumed canceling some events to slow the spread.

Some worry the same will happen in Florida as the state continues to sit below the national average for adult immunization. The CDC reports about 65% of adults nationally have had at least one shot compared to 62% in Florida.

DeSantis, however, said shots here are widely available and vaccine rates for the state's most vulnerable are high. About 82% of those 65 and older in Florida have had at least one shot, reports the Florida Department of Health.

Vaccine experts at the White House have continued urging the public to stay vigilant in recent weeks. Dr. Cameron Webb, White House senior equity adviser for the COVID-19 Task Force, said the nation should not underestimate the Delta variant.

"The threat is still real and there is a great desire to get back to normal," Webb said. "The bridge between those two is getting vaccinated."

Critics suggest Florida could be doing more to boost its shot numbers and drop other metrics.

The latest federal data (CDC/HHS) shows the state has remained number one for average daily COVID-19 cases (1,636), average daily deaths (40) and second for average daily hospitalizations (1,936), behind Texas. The rates vary when measured per capita.

Democrats have slammed DeSantis for downplaying the virus, suggesting it has contributed to vaccine apathy.

"Gov. DeSantis has failed Florida at every stage of this pandemic, and now he has let down Floridians once again by failing to effectively lead efforts to get our state fully vaccinated," Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz said in a statement. "Instead of ramping up vaccine distribution when President (Joe) Biden passed the American Rescue Plan, Gov. DeSantis politicized the rollout process, contradicted public health experts, and did little to combat the vaccine hesitancy he helped sow."

Other states have offered incentives like lotteries or vacation giveaways. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who's running for DeSantis' seat in 2022, said he needs to step up his efforts.

"You're not hearing anyone from the governor's office talking about vaccinations," she said. "The only way that our economy is going to get completely back open -- that we're going to save lives and defeat these other variants -- is for everyone to get vaccinated."