Michele Rayner-Goolsby blasts Ron DeSantis over Manatee vaccine inequality

Michele Rayner Headshot
'This is not the time to score political points while people are dying.'

Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby blasted Gov. Ron DeSantis after he announced a boost in vaccines for Manatee County, but not for any of her constituents.

“Governor DeSantis has made a choice to prioritize affluent neighborhoods in Manatee County over our underserved populations knowing the numbers are criminally low when it comes to equitable distribution of this vaccine,” the St. Petersburg Democrat said. “Today, DeSantis doubled down on his decision and added that efforts would go to areas where his leadership isn’t being criticized.”

“This is not the time to score political points while people are dying. It is time to take a sobering look at the numbers that have been released and act accordingly to bring aid to all Floridians.”

Rayner’s House District 70 covers largely minority communities within Manatee and not the two Lakewood Ranch ZIP codes served at a site announced by DeSantis earlier this week.

Within Manatee County, 28.1% of the residents, or more than 113,000 people, are older than 65, according to the most recent Census estimates. Meanwhile, 86% of county residents are White, 9.3% are Black and 16.9% are Hispanic.

But of the 43,405 individuals vaccinated so far in the county, 31,067 are White, or 71.6%. Just 793 are Black, or 1.8%, and 1,077, or 2.5%, are Hispanic.

The community pod, set up through Lakewood Ranch developer Rex Jensen with help from Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, has generated uproar even in the heavily Republican county. That has worsened amid reports Baugh asked vaccines to be reserved for herself, Jensen and three others.

But DeSantis has defended the site, noting the 3,000 shots distributed there will be in addition to the normal inventory of shots sent to the county.

“If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, we are totally fine doing this in counties that want it,” he said Wednesday.

He announced a similar community pod in Pinellas Park on Thursday morning to applause from benefitting seniors.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Sonja Fitch

    February 19, 2021 at 5:35 am

    Do not ever doubt that Duffus Desantis is a racist! Duffus Desantis proves it every time he makes a decision that usually is made for the rich white folks. From 💩Publix to Manatee, Duffus Desantis bows to the rich and white. Vote for Democrats up and down ballot for the elections in 2022!

  • jp millender

    February 19, 2021 at 11:43 am

    we’re seeing the same situation in the entire panhandle area! the has a trump problem help those that vote/like my leadership style…it’s coming back at you believe me it will! 1 termer!!

  • James M. Mejuto

    February 19, 2021 at 11:57 am

    It’s amazing this foreign Governor of Florida actually cherry-picks
    those parts of Florida who will receive the vaccine, determined purely on political grounds. It may be hard to understand but this is the reality of a republican run gov’t. . . . NOT PEOPLE FRIENDLY !
    This pathetic Florida democrat party has to step up!

Comments are closed.


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