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Gov. DeSantis applauded as Florida ramps up vaccine distribution for country’s largest elderly population

Gov. Ron DeSantis drew applause Wednesday for his refusal to take the vaccine ahead of senior populations, telling reporters he is "not the priority."

"I’m willing to take it, but I am not the priority, they’re the priority. I’m under 45," he said. "People under 45 are not going to be first in line for this, so when it’s my turn, I will take it."

"I want my parents, our grandparents to be able to get it,"  he continued. "I’m an elected official but whoopie-doo, at the end of the day let’s focus where the risk is."

DeSantis’ come as the vaccine has started to reach first responders, elderly populations and leadership figures — including congressional members — across the U.S.

The governor said that can expect to see an increase in the New Year in number of vaccines distributed to the state’s 67 counties as the U.S.’s largest elderly population volley for the vaccine on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Following DeSantis’ executive order last week, front line health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, along with anyone age 65 and up, are now eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine in the Sunshine State – though getting access to the limited supply have left many seniors waiting in long lines to no avail.

"That’s the population that’s been most at risk for COVID, it’s impacted their lives greater and we have a responsibility to stand by those folks who have done so much to make our state and country what it is today," DeSantis said during a Wednesday press conference. "You talk about a place like Kings Point, you have people from the Greatest Generation, people who fought in World War II, survived the Holocaust – these are people that we’ve got to stand with and prioritize."

Florida is preparing to receive 127,100 doses of the Moderna vaccine, 93,900 of which will be distributed to county health departments that have yet to receive a vaccine. Though more locations will be able to offer the vaccine, whether or not it will help with lengthy wait times remains to be seen.

Counties across the state have become overloaded with seniors trying to get a vaccine to the virus that has stricken their state with more than 1.3 million cases, including 13,871 new cases reported Wednesday, and more than 21,000 deaths since the pandemic started.

Lee County, home to Cape Coral, a leading retirement location in the U.S., said they had reached capacity at all three of their vaccine distribution locations by 6:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, drawing condemnation from those who believe the vaccines should be reserved by an appointment system and for residents, not "snow birds" – elderly populations who only live in Florida during the winter months.

"All three vaccination sites are AT CAPACITY," the Lee County Health Department wrote. "Additional sites will open next week."

The second round of Pfizer vaccines are expected to be distributed next week to individuals who received the vaccine during week one.

As of Wednesday, 175,000 Floridians have recieved the first round of vaccines, though with Florida’s elderly population hovering around 4 million, seniors will likely continue to wait for weeks to come before being vaccinated.

DeSantis said that hospitals and distribution centers are responsible for their own process of rolling out the vaccine, but said that they need to better communicate with people on how they want to move forward with distributing the vaccine, adding, "I think most of them want to have a more orderly reservation system."



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