Feb 19, 2021 - News

DeSantis announces new vaccine site after being accused of prioritizing wealthy white area

Tampa Bay area COVID-19 vaccines

A day after announcing a COVID-19 vaccine site for a wealthy, predominantly white Manatee neighborhood developed by a major campaign donor, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) declared Thursday that Pinellas Park is the area's next vaccination site.

What's happening: About 3,000 seniors in the Mainlands of Tamarac 55+ neighborhood started getting their Moderna shots yesterday. Mainlands is a notably less wealthy neighborhood than Manatee's Lakewood Ranch.

Why it matters: DeSantis has bragged about Florida's 42% senior vaccination rate, one of the highest in the nation, but he recognized that Pinellas County has trailed in vaccinating its 65-and-older population.

  • Pinellas — one of the oldest counties in the state in terms of median age — has a 35% senior vaccination rate, DeSantis said. He hopes to get that up to 50-60% in the coming weeks.
  • To up the numbers, another 5,000 doses will be administered at another Pinellas site next week, he said.

Here's how Pinellas compares to nearby counties:

  • Manatee has given at least one shot to roughly 28% of its 65 and older population, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
  • Polk: 29%.
  • Hernando: 30%.
  • Pasco: 32%.
  • Hillsborough: 35%.

What they're saying: AARP state director Jeff Johnson, based in St. Petersburg, told Axios that the majority of complaints from members in the Tampa Bay area are around how frustrating it has been to get appointments. And that people might be more patient if they better understood how vaccines are being distributed.

  • "You can’t just tell people, 'It’s going to take a while,'" he said. "This is not like going to go see Hamilton or Taylor Swift. This is someone’s ticket to be able to see their grandkids or eat in a restaurant or go back to faith-based communities."

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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