DeSantis irked by criticism over vaccine rollout, but asks Floridians for patience

DeSantis addresses COVID-19 vaccine plans at a press conference in Miami on Jan. 4, 2021. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

Gov. Ron DeSantis was frustrated and sparring with a reporter late Monday afternoon during a press conference in Miami to discuss vaccine distribution.

Earlier in the day, the governor was at an Orlando news conference on vaccine distribution and things went smoothly, with several first responders and elderly people getting shots live on camera.

But by the afternoon, DeSantis was facing questions in Miami about the initial vaccine rollout and how it went.

“What has gone wrong with vaccine rollout,” a reporter asked the governor.

DeSantis responded, “It’s a lot of demand.”

The governor continued, but the reporter interrupted.

“Excuse me — you said what has gone wrong and I’m answering the question,” DeSantis said.

“Are you going to give a speech, or ask a question,” the governor said.

The sparring continued.

DeSantis explained that the state distributed vaccines to hospitals and the hospitals provided vaccines first-come first-served. The governor reiterated  that “demand is exceeding supply,” and the state prioritizes vaccines for the elderly, at least age 65.

He added that Florida doesn’t have millions of vaccines. “I know people are chomping at the bit, and we’re going to get there,” DeSantis said.

“We’ve asked people to be patient.”

The Florida Democratic Party was critical of the state’s initial vaccine rollout, calling it a “failed vaccine rollout,” with DeSantis shifting the blame to others.

“Instead of taking responsibility for the disastrous rollout, Governor DeSantis is blaming hospitals and doctors for rollout problems— saying that he will take away vaccine allotments, when he is the one without a plan,” party chair Terrie Rizzo said in a statement late Monday afternoon. “Meanwhile, he is also ignoring constituent complaints about impossibly long lines and confusing systems.  Floridians have a right to be outraged.”

The governor’s Facebook page includes a variety of comments about the vaccine rollout, both supportive and critical.

From one commenter: “Governor please address the Pensacola area. We have a lot of 65 and older here with no way to get a shot but health department which has already shut down appointments. We need your help.”

Another posted: “Governor, are you aware elderly people in Volusia County has to wait 19 hours to get vaccinated? Why are you letting this happen? You said you care about the elderly.”

“We need to cover the rest of the compromised immunity population, they are in more jeopardy than most 65 year olds,” another commenter said.

But several people praised the governor, with one, saying, “Keep it up Governor. Great job!”

“Best Governor ever,” another said.

Meanwhile, State Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando sent a letter to the governor on Monday, saying that thus far, the vaccine distribution lacked efficiency and transparency.

“Each of the 67 counties has a different idea of how to distribute the little that they are allotted, with many counties struggling to keep phone lines or websites from crashing due to huge demand,” Stewart wrote.

“With four million people in Florida over 65, we do not have vaccines for all or our seniors, health care workers and first responders. On top of that, the distribution has been uneven, with one county receiving 40,000 doses while another county of similar population gets 6,500. This is not working for our citizens.”

“We need a pandemic czar to oversee the distribution of vaccines in an efficient and equitable manner, including by fully utilizing the National Guard to ensure that vaccines are getting into the arms of citizens as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.