Mar 8, 2021 - News

DeSantis faces deepening controversy over vaccines for ultra-rich Florida community

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of the Conservative Political Action Conference last month in Orlando. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said "the state was not involved" in helping to vaccinate 1,200 residents of the super-rich Ocean Reef community in January.

  • But both the hospital system that supplied the doses and Monroe County have contradicted his claims, saying the state authorized the vaccines, the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald report.

Why it matters: DeSantis has faced increasing criticism for directing vaccines toward wealthy communities.

  • Some of those who benefitted from the vaccine pop-ups also donated to the governor's political action committee, which has pulled in almost $4 million.

The state of play: A spokeswoman for Baptist Health Systems, which administered the Ocean Reef vaccines, told the Times/Herald that "Florida asked Baptist Health to take delivery of the doses to our ultra-cold freezer storage for delivery to the Medical Center at Ocean Reef."

  • Brian Keeley, the Baptist Health Systems president and CEO, and his wife own a home in Ocean Reef, but the spokeswoman wouldn't comment on whether they had a hand in getting the vaccines.
  • Back in January, Baptist Health canceled vaccine appointments for hundreds of members of the general public because it had run out of supply.

What's next: Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried and state Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer asked the FBI to investigate.

  • "If this isn’t public corruption, I don’t know what is,’' Fried said.

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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