Representatives for Florida’s Governor and the President of the United States traded sharp statements about vaccine supply issues Monday in what is sure to be the first of many terse exchanges between Tallahassee and Washington.
On Monday evening, the spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis released a statement responding to what was called “the misinformation from the White House regarding Florida’s vaccination numbers.”
Meredith Beatrice, who directs strategic initiatives for DeSantis, chose to “present the facts,” which include Florida leading the nation per capita in vaccines administered.
“Despite the challenge of limited vaccine supply at the federal level, Gov. DeSantis has led the charge to create a robust and innovative infrastructure for vaccinations here in Florida and we are prepared if and when additional vaccine comes,” Beatrice asserted.
That statement was an after business hours rejoinder to Jen Psaki, President Joe Biden‘s Press Secretary, who said Florida had considerable undistributed supply Monday.
“And I will note — because we’re data first here, fact first here — they’ve only distributed about 50 percent of the vaccines that they have been given in Florida. So, clearly, they have a good deal of the vaccine. That supply will need to continue to increase as they are able to effectively reach people across the state,” Psaki told reporters in D.C.
Those comments came a short time after the Governor’s claim in Jacksonville that Florida was at the “mercy” of the federal government regarding vaccine supplies. DeSantis, who has not demonstrated any outreach to the new administration, urged “seniors” to pressure their representatives in Washington and the Biden administration.
“I tell the seniors: Write your Congressman and your Senators,” DeSantis advised Monday at a Jacksonville long-term care facility. “Tell them to talk to the administration. Have them send more Pfizer and Moderna to the states.”
DeSantis is closely aligned with former President Donald Trump, and many distribution criticisms were kept opaque during the initial weeks of Operation Warp Speed. The current challenges are nothing new, as DeSantis himself notes, but go back some weeks,
However, the early days of the Biden administration have found a heightened urgency in the narrative.
In Jacksonville, the Governor made repeated rhetorical appeals, consistent with other recent showups, for more supply. Monday’s tone was particularly urgent, making a direct case that the feds are not delivering what the state needs.
“We are telling the federal government that they are in control of this. We don’t have a big cache sitting around at the state. We only get what they send us. The sole focus of the federal government should be increasing the first doses to the state.”
The Governor said the state’s capacity to administer vaccinations “far outstrips what we are being given by the feds.”
“We are getting about 266,000 first doses a week. We clearly have the capacity to do much, much more than that,” DeSantis contended. “If we can get 500,000 a week instead of 266 (thousand,) we’ll be able to vaccinate that many more seniors that much more quickly.”
As the Biden administration continues to fine tune its vaccine distribution, expect more discrepancies between the narratives from Tallahassee and Washington.