Gov. DeSantis extends his COVID vaccine for the homebound program to Bay of Pigs vets

A Bay of Pigs invasion veteran displays a sticker confirming his COVID vaccination status during a news conference attended by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Feb. 8, 2021, in Miami. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

Veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion were vaccinated against COVID-19 Monday in Miami as part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to steer doses to homebound elderly people.

Three veterans took their shots during a news conference at the Bay of Pigs Museum and Library. Health care workers will inoculate others in their homes, DeSantis said.

The governor didn’t give a number, but around 280 veterans of the failed 1961 invasion are still living, said Humberto Lopes, director of the museum.

Last week under the homebound program, DeSantis supervised the vaccination in Miami-Dade County of Judy Rodan, who as a small child was sheltered in a convent against the Nazis. Earlier, he saw 100-year-old WWII vet Henry Salyer take the shot during an appearance on Fox & Friends.

“These are folks who, in this case, have put their lives on the line to defend freedom against communism,” the governor said.

“Whether you have the World War II veteran I was with a couple of weeks ago that put his life on the line to defeat Nazi tyranny, or whether you have somebody like the Holocaust survivor who lost her whole family, completely eliminated through the reign of terror by Nazi Germany,” DeSantis said.

“These are folks that we draw inspiration from and it’s the right thing to do. Medically, it’s the right thing to do. But, morally, it’s the right thing to do.”

State Sen. Manny Diaz and other influential Miamians asked the administration whether the program could be extended to Bay of Pigs vets, the governor said.

The then-new Kennedy administration authorized the April 1961 attempt by some 1,400 mostly exiled Cubans to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro but withheld promised air support. The effort collapsed and the survivors spent close to two years in prison, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

DeSantis emphasized that he’s willing to adapt his seniors-first approach to vaccine distribution when circumstances warrant.

“This is a dynamic situation. You’ve got to be able to make decisions and sometimes you may have to adjust. The adjustments we’ve been making are finding areas where the senior population has gotten a smaller percentage than we would like,” DeSantis said.

That said, the governor is, in effect, picking and choosing certain groups of residents over others to get vaccinated, with the help of lawmakers and other influential people.

Meanwhile, DeSantis is directing “plused-up” supplies to some communities, particularly to ones with low percentages of seniors vaccinated, he said. Blacks in particular lag regarding access to coronavirus vaccines, and the governor has recruited church pastors to move doses into that and other communities, according to the Florida Phoenix.

The state’s allotment from the federal government last week was 307,000 doses but this week has been increased to 330,000, DeSantis said, which will allow officials to open a point of distribution, or POD, for underserved neighborhoods in Miami Dade County, similar to one established last week in Pahokee.

He’ll announce the details soon, he said.

“We’re going to try to do 200 seniors a day, seven days a week, in an area that may not have as many people that have been vaccinated,” he said.

The state also hopes to expand dose distribution through a Biden administration program sending doses, above the state’s formal allotment, directly to pharmacies including those operated by Wal-Mart. The state already distributes vaccines through Publix pharmacies.

“We’ definitely going to get retail pharmacy [distribution] into Miami-Dade County, DeSantis said.

DeSantis said he is “a little bit disappointed” that Washington won’t consider Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine for approval until the end of the month. The company filed the paperwork on Thursday.

“We understood it wasn’t going to be a 24-hour process,” the governor said. “In these times, working around the clock is something that you should be doing to be able to get these things approved as soon as possible,” he said.