Southwest Florida vaccine push continues in Charlotte County
Ron DeSantus. Image via WESH.

DeSantis Publix
Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee counties lag behind the rest of the state in vaccinated seniors.

Florida is making vaccines available to 3,000 seniors in Charlotte County as the state continues its vaccine push in Southwest Florida.

Those doses are available to Floridians 65 years old and older through a pod in Port Charlotte, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday.

That comes the day after the Governor was in Sarasota to roll out a pop-up site with 3,000 vaccines. He also announced that Sarasota County would begin receiving 7,000 vaccines on a weekly basis, an increase of 3,700.

Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee counties have each between 20% to 25% of their 65 and older populations now vaccinated. That lags behind other counties, which have vaccinated 40% of more of that cohort.

“Twenty-two percent of seniors is actually pretty good compared to other states, but within Florida, we have some, we have many areas that are 50 and even 55%,” DeSantis told reporters.

The Governor has routinely touted Florida as the best state for vaccinating seniors. The Sunshine State leads the nation in seniors vaccinated by percentage and total.

That’s in part because the state got an early jump on vaccinating its older population. In December, the federal government told states to vaccinate people 75 and older as well as essential workers.

DeSantis has since branded the state’s rollout as “Seniors First.”

“That was not what we were told to do by the bureaucrats, but we said, you know what, this is impacting seniors more than it’s impacting somebody that’s 42, like me, or somebody that’s 22 in college,” DeSantis said Thursday. “We’re going to follow the data, and we’re going to be there for our parents and grandparents when they need it most.”

The Governor also announced the state is seeking World War II and Korean War veterans to vaccinate as part of the state’s homebound senior vaccination program. Florida has turned to veterans organizations to help find those former servicemen.

One 94-year-old local who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf was the first veteran vaccinated through the new focus.

“They put their lives on the line for our country, and we need to be there for them, and if that means devote these resources on an expeditionary basis, we’re going to do that,” DeSantis said.

Through the homebound seniors mission, Florida has vaccinated Holocaust survivors and veterans of the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

DeSantis has toured the state, highlighting vaccinations at Publix pharmacieschurcheshospitalslong-term care facilities and stadiums. On Tuesday, he highlighted the Federal Pharmacy Program, an initiative of the Joe Biden administration that the White House describes as “a key component of the administration’s National Strategy to expand equitable access to vaccines for the American public.”

One future goal for the Governor is to get vaccines into doctors’ offices. However, with vaccines in short supply, vaccines aren’t yet available in doctor’s offices on a widespread level.

“When you get into doctor, physicians’ offices, they have their patients, so they can just send out a thing, ‘Hey, I have 100 shots available,’ that the patients can come in, they can get it and it I think moves very smoothly,” DeSantis said.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.



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