Gov. DeSantis won’t ‘jump the line’ for the coronavirus vaccine

Gov. Ron DeSantis at a COVID-19 roundtable discussion at AdventHealth Orlando on July 28, 2020. Credit: Screenshot, Florida Channel.

Although he’s encouraging health care workers and vulnerable groups to take the COVID-19 vaccination, Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to wait his turn in line.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” communications director Fred Piccolo said Thursday.

Specifically, DeSantis will get vaccinated when the state has enough doses for men, like him, who appear to be in good health with none of the co-morbidities that might render them vulnerable to dangerous COVID symptoms.

“He doesn’t want to jump the line,” Piccolo said in a telephone interview.

The Phoenix asked about the matter because coronavirus vaccines are flowing into the state now and because other state leaders have become infected.

Most recently, Senate President Wilton Simpson missed Florida Electoral College proceedings in the Capitol on Monday after receiving a positive test result.

As of mid-November, when the state House and Senate gathered to organize for the 2021 regular session, nine lawmakers had tested positive.

Additionally, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott tested positive in November and members of the state’s congressional delegation have tested positive or self-isolated after coming into contact with infected people.

Communications officers for the Senate and House leadership did not reply Thursday to questions about vaccinations for their members.

Florida’s first dose of the Pfizer vaccine was administered on Monday, to a nurse in the COVID unit at Tampa General Hospital.

DeSantis’ policy is to give priority to front-line medical workers, followed by residents of long-term care facilities. Residents of some such facilities in South Florida started receiving doses on Wednesday with another 60,000 doses to roll out as early as Monday via CVS and Walgreens.

The state expects to begin receiving a vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. next week, the governor’s office announced Wednesday. Some 367,000 doses are headed to 173 hospitals in 43 counties Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna version does not require ultra-cold storage.

The flow of vaccines has not been steady. Although the state has received nearly 180,000 initial doses of the Pfizer product, DeSantis said earlier this week that an additional 450,000 doses are expected during the next two weeks had been held up.

At least one state governor has already taken his shot — Jim Justice of West Virginia said he wanted to demonstrate that the vaccine is safe and set a good example. Top aides also were vaccinated. But other governors queried by the Associated Press, like DeSantis, are waiting.

“No one in the governor’s office has gotten it, nor have we been offered it,” Piccolo said.

However, that could change if enough people decline to get vaccinated.

“It is a consideration. If we saw that vaccine participation rates were low, that might change the calculus,” Piccolo said.

As of Thursday, the Florida Department of Health reported 1,168,483 COVID-19 infections and 20,305 deaths of Florida residents. In both cases, the figures increased from the prior day.

Florida continues to rank 3rd in the nation for the number of COVID-19 infections, but ranks 26th in the infection rate, meaning infections per 100,000 people, according to a New York Times analysis.

As for COVID deaths, Florida ranks 4th for the number of deaths, but 18th in the death rate.