Florida’s former Republican Governor has no clue what the current Governor is doing to distribute coronavirus vaccines. To that end, he pressed the state’s current Surgeon General for answers Friday.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott wrote Surgeon General Scott Rivkees pressing for operational details in the state’s vaccine distribution plan.
Florida’s idiosyncratic approach to distributing the vaccine, one that deviates from Centers for Disease Control guidelines, has not been without incident, leading Scott to call for accountability as the state wrestles with distribution challenges.
The Senator identifies popular frustration with an administration distribution plan that has had a rocky beginning, with supply shortfalls and logistical failures abounding throughout the state.
“I am hearing from constituents who are having trouble getting information about the vaccine in their communities,” Scott asserted. “Many are unable to register through provided phone lines or websites and are faced with extremely long lines to get the vaccine. What efforts are being undertaken to fix these issues and ensure coordination with local partners, so Floridians have all the information they need about where to get the vaccine?”
Beyond the disconnect between municipalities and the elderly population trying to line up shots, Scott also honed in on potential flaws with the plan to distribute the vaccine via hospitals.
“The state has advised Floridians to obtain the vaccine through hospitals. How does an individual determine which hospital they should contact? Is there a plan to make information easily available so Floridians can make an informed choice? I am hearing from constituents that when they call hospitals, they are being told vaccines are for patients only and then are referred back to County Health Departments. Can you address this?”
Scott demands accountability from Rivkees on the plan itself, which saw DeSantis follow his own instincts rather than the Trump administration’s CDC.
“The state’s vaccine plan prioritizes residents in long-term care facilities,” Scott said. “Why did Florida choose to activate the federally-supported COVID-19 vaccination program for skilled nursing facilities in December, but delay activating the program for assisted living facilities until January?”
Scott also addressed a unique challenge in Florida.
“How are you addressing snowbirds and others visiting Florida that want the vaccine? Are you prioritizing Florida residents?”
For what it’s worth, DeSantis has addressed this question, essentially giving long-term visitors and permanent residents parity.
“We’re a transient state,” DeSantis said. “You’ll have people that will be here, and it’s not like they’re just on vacation for two weeks.”
The Scott/DeSantis dynamic has been a fractious one, and the vaccine front clearly is not one where the previous Governor will give the incumbent any political cover. In fact, it’s one where the Senator is exploiting what he clearly sees as an opening.
Scott has taken a messaging lead on vaccine distribution, trumpeting the most recent federal allotment of shots this week. At the same time, DeSantis contemporaneously made news for an abrasive answer to a cable news reporter’s question on the subject.