Nikki Fried says end ‘Hunger Games,’ drop doctor’s note requirement on vaccines
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried slammed HB 1 Friday.

Not every Floridian can afford a trip to a doctor for a note.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says you shouldn’t need a doctor’s note to prove you qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine.

A week ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis made the vaccine available to all ages of patients who are “extremely vulnerable” to the coronavirus. But he also required a special form be filled out by a doctor attesting to a medical condition. That’s continued an economic exclusivity limiting shots to those with economic ability, Fried said.

“Ron DeSantis is playing the Hunger Games with the vaccine while lives are at stake,” Fried said. That references a series of Suzanne Collins novels in which an aristocratic ruling class forces tributes from poor areas to fight to the death to decide which communities receive food for the coming year.

At a press conference alongside Rep. Ramon Alexander, Fried said the state needed to publicize a plan for making vaccines available, stop holding back an untold number of shots for hastily arranged pop-up clinics and to remove bureaucratic barriers to medical attention.

Anyone with evidence of a pre-existing condition, whether it’s a prescription bottle or doctor’s bill, should be able to show that at a vaccine site and get a shot, she said.

Alexander noted Florida has some 3 million uninsured citizens, making it all the more challenging for those individuals to secure doctor’s signatures on special forms.

“We are well above the national average on those who are uninsured,” he said. Much of that comes from the state government that has for years refused Medicaid expansion.

But absent an instantaneous policy change, Alexander and Fried said matters are made worse for the lack of a plan for unrolling the virus.

“We are the only state that does not have a COVID plan,” Fried said. “We don’t know who is next on the list.”

DeSantis last month said he believed Florida was better off without a publicized vaccination plan, noting many states that released schedules and criteria have had to make changes to those plans.

Of course, the recent call from Fried allowed her to pile on to growing scrutiny of DeSantis’ decision-making process for releasing vaccines. Fried is widely expected to challenge DeSantis’ reelection in 2022.

She referenced pop-up clinics in Manatee, Charlotte, Monroe and Miami-Dade counties where questions have arisen about clinics limiting vaccines to affluent populations.

While DeSantis’ team has stressed vaccines were also made available through Black churches, synagogues and mosques, Fried said even that fails to recognize the nature of the pandemic and the dynamics of those communities.

“Not every Black person goes to church,” she said. “You can’t stereotype and say ‘we got the churches, we’re good.’ That’s not the reality of what happens on the ground.”

Fried went out of her way to praise Jared Moskowitz, the outgoing director of the Division of Emergency Management and the highest ranking Democrat in DeSantis’ administration. It’s noteworthy Moskowitz has pushed back hard against many of the vaccine access theories Fried continues to extol.

But Fried said Moskowitz ultimately takes order from the Governor, who she said was rewarding donors and Republican communities for supporting the GOP.

She called last week for an FBI investigation of DeSantis’ vaccine program. She maintains that’s still critical.

“These fact patterns are clear; you give campaign donations you get access,” she said. “Something is going on here that’s not kosher.”

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]


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