Gov. Ron DeSantis continued his “Seniors First” campaign Wednesday, with a morning appearance in Sun City Center in Hillsborough County, where he again challenged the Joe Biden administration to up the state’s vaccine supply.
The Governor has spent much of the month traveling the state to highlight senior citizen vaccinations for COVID-19, alternately hitting long-term care facilities and Publix stores in various markets to stress that the state is putting “seniors first.” The Wednesday morning stop was of the former variety, with 5,000 new shots expected to be given in the coming days.
In a lively question and answer session after the highlight, DeSantis criticized the “politics” of the COVID-19 vaccination effort, while offering grist for the partisan mill. He called for as many as 500,000 first-shot doses to be sent to the state per week and challenged again the White House to provide more doses to Florida and other states with first-shot shortfalls.
He also called Biden administration criticism of the Trump effort “more politics than it is trying to unify and come together and get things done,” his latest clapback to a Joe Biden spokesperson who noted Florida was holding a lot of its distribution for second shots.
“The White House says Florida has all these doses. These are second doses! We should give away people’s second doses? I think seniors in Florida who have gotten their first shot want to complete the regimen,” DeSantis said.
The Governor promised his administration would “continue to level with folks and give them the real facts on that,” urging the Biden administration to “put the politics aside, step up, and do it.”
“They had a bunch of things they were saying with the vaccine and my point and other Governors, and Democratic Governors have said this to, is the overriding thing is just to get more doses. We don’t need more infrastructure. Let’s just get more doses. And so if they’re able to deliver that, that would be great,” DeSantis said, responding to a media question about his working relationship with the new Democratic administration.
“We want to work constructively with that on being able to vaccinate seniors,” DeSantis continued, noting that he’d worked successfully with “the previous administration” on issues, a team led by a President who was this Governor’s political patron.
The Governor then offered an unsolicited defense of the Trump a””dministration’s efforts in fighting the virus, such as the vaccine development push Operation Warp Speed.
“If they’re saying things like there was no plan by Operation Warp Speed, that is factually false,” the Governor thundered. “I had probably a dozen calls with other Governors over a three month period with Warp Speed. I personally met with them multiple times in Washington.”
DeSantis said he talked with former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield and other officials “time and time again.”
“They had a plan. And the delivery of this, we haven’t had any problem with delivery,” he said of the former administration. “They say it’s coming and it comes.”
The Governor urged the White House to “put politics aside and you need to do whatever we can to get shots in arms. In Florida, the overriding thing we need is to continue to get up the doses so we can do more of these pods through the state of Florida.”
“That’s what the seniors want. That’s what the FDA approved,” DeSantis said at another point regarding the two-shot regimen required for some vaccines. “We’re going to stick to the program that’s been 95% effective.”
While the state is getting what the Governor had called a “modest increase” of first shots, with 307,000 headed to the state next week, DeSantis says he really needs 500,000 first shots to match available “throughput.”
The question the Governor will ask himself regarding the bump up this week: “Where can we put those additional 40,000 doses to be more effective?”
The additional 40,000 doses are “not going to be a big difference in terms of being a gamechanger, but it is helpful,” DeSantis said, though shortages are still acute. For example, some hospitals are currently out of first doses.
All told, 23% of seniors have gotten shots.
“People need to be patient based on those numbers,” the Governor noted, making it clear though that more doses would result in more results.
The question, of course, is if press conference back and forth statements can substitute for the organic relationship DeSantis had with the 45th President.