At a news event Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted as Henry Sayler, a 100-year-old decorated World War II veteran, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
DeSantis proclaimed the St. Petersburg resident was the 1 millionth senior in the state to be vaccinated.
“We do believe this is the 1 millionth senior, which the reporting will bear out over the next couple of days,” DeSantis said at the event.
However, the Governor’s claim was a bit premature, leading DeSantis to later walk back his words. The Governor’s office sent out a news release clarifying that the shot was symbolic of nearing the goal of 1 million, according to the Associated Press.
DeSantis also said later at a news conference that there’s a lag time in reporting the number of shots administered. He said that it takes about three days for a vaccination to appear in the state’s records, his basis for touting the 1 million.
But, the Governor is now commemorating Sayler’s vaccination as “symbolic” of the state nearing 1 million vaccinations for seniors.
“We continue to lead the nation in vaccines for those aged 65 and older,” DeSantis said in a video released Saturday.
The Governor is now emphasizing that the state is “rapidly approaching reporting 1 million vaccinations just to Florida seniors.”
And, it’s not too far off.
The state’s “senior first” approach has led to the vaccinations of 833,578 individuals 65 and older as of Friday, according to the state vaccination report. Of those who have been vaccinated, only 31,910 have completed the series. Seniors account for about 66% of total vaccines administered.
Patching in from the Pinellas County health department, DeSantis joined Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” Friday morning to showcase who he claimed would be the 1 millionth senior to get a shot in the Sunshine State.
Henry Sayler, a 100-year-old WWII Army Air Forces veteran who served eight years in the Florida Senate in the ’60s and ’70s became the Governor’s latest display for his “Seniors First” agenda prioritizing vaccinating the state’s 65-and-older population.
Sayler has lived a rich life. He’s met astronaut Buzz Aldrin, aviator Charles Lindbergh, baseball Hall of famer Joe DiMaggio and presidents Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan.
He flew over Normandy and battled in the Florida Senate. But his most recent battle has been against the pandemic.
“Things are not normal at age 100, but we’ve been very close to normal,” Sayler said.
He’s still seen friends and family during the pandemic, he said, with DeSantis adding that the centenarian has taken precautions but keeps living a full life while understanding that the virus is real.
“He’s going to keep living and obviously this vaccine will help him even do more,” the Governor said Friday.
All in all, the state has vaccinated 1,249,804 individuals, including health care workers.
While he’s touted the state’s efficient vaccine rollout, including 405,000 shots administered last week alone, the state only gets about 266,000 vaccines a week.
This week, the Governor has also responded to reports that non-Floridians and even non-Americans are traveling to the state and successfully getting shots. DeSantis argued that those are one-off instances that are handled.
To combat the “vaccine tourism” allegation, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees issued a public health advisory Thursday outlining that only residents, seasonal residents and health care workers should get a shot. Snowbirds, those seasonal residents who spend months at a time in Florida, get a pass in the state’s eye.
Florida Politics reporter Renzo Downey contributed to this report.