Gov. DeSantis returns to Senate President’s turf to administer more COVID vaccines

Gov. Ron DeSantis distributed COVID vaccines in Crystal River on March 4, 2021. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

Gov. Ron DeSantis visited Senate President Wilton Simpson’s back yard for the third time in about a week to open a COVID vaccination site — part of an effort, he said, to boost vaccination rates among seniors in counties that are lagging in that regard.

The new site is in Crystal River, in Citrus County. The governor was in Zephyrhills, in Pasco County,  on Wednesday to open a vaccination site. That was a week to the day after he’d traveled to Brooksville, in Hernando County, for the same purpose.

FL Sen. Wilton Simpson, sworn in as the 89th president of the Florida Senate. Credit: Florida Channel, screenshot.

Simson’s legislative district contains all or part of each county. He and the governor are Republicans.

The plan in Zephyrhills and Crystal River was to administer 3,300 doses over three days. Brooksville got 2,250 over that same period.

“Statewide, we’re at over 54 percent (for 65 and older residents vaccinated). Here, we’re in the 40s. And so, we want to be able increase that,” DeSantis said during a news conference.

Florida Department of Health data show that 11,654 people in Citrus County have received an initial dose and that 14,567 have received both doses in a two-shot regimen, for total of 26,221 people vaccinated in Citrus.

Based on U.S. Census data for those residents 65 and older, compared to the number of vaccinations, about 48 percent of the elderly in Citrus have been vaccinated.

Statewide, 1,400,524 have received a first dose and 1,773,638 have completed the series, totaling 3,174,162 people vaccinated in Florida.

DeSantis is prioritizing senior citizens for shots on the ground that they are most vulnerable to serious complications or death from the coronravirus.

In addition, Walgreens will distribute 80 doses on each weekday and 60 on Saturday and Sunday at two of its pharmacies in Citrus. The state also is sending vaccines to Wal-Mart, Publix, and Winn-Dixie pharmacies in the county, the governor said.

The governor has been under criticism recently over whether certain groups — from people in affluent neighborhoods to Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans — are getting in front of the line for vaccine doses, with help from influential lawmakers, business leaders and other connections.

In the general population, getting a vaccination can be a struggle because the supply doesn’t meet the demand.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.