TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — President Joe Biden has instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to start setting up mass vaccination sites across the country. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls the plan a big mistake and unnecessary for Florida. But can he stop it?
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, nearly 36 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been distributed nationwide. Approximately half have been administered.
“I had no idea what the plan is for my county,” Ken Miller, an 83-year-old Hillsborough County resident, said.
The federal government will release the majority of available doses, no longer holding boosters in reserve. Mobile units will be launched to hard-to-reach parts of the U.S. and FEMA will begin setting up mass vaccination sites across the country.
But Gov. DeSantis is not on board with this plan, calling it a “big mistake.”
“I saw some of this stuff Biden’s putting out, that he’s going to create these FEMA camps. I can tell you, that’s not necessary in Florida,” DeSantis said. “All we need is more vaccine. Just get us more vaccine.”
“The only thing the federal government should focus on right now is increasing shipments,” he added.
DeSantis said the states should have control, like they did under the Trump administration’s plan. He went on to praise the hard work of county health departments and hospitals tasked with administering the vaccine.
“What we’re doing in the counties, what the hospitals are doing. Some of the drive-thru sites, the church sites, Publix, all this stuff together – we have a lot of throughputs now,” DeSantis said. “If they give me more vaccines we’ll be able to get it out to places where they’ll be able to get it into the arms of the seniors.”
So in the coming days, who will be calling the shots here?
“Theoretically, it can’t even set up FEMA sites on land that is not owned by the federal government without the state’s permission,” Dr. Jay Wolfson from USF explained.
Dr. Wolfson says states usually control public health but the feds can take over by declaring a national emergency. If Florida resists mandates in court, the language in the feds’ declaration will be key.
“The federal government is going to do everything it can to make more vials available and to make more sites and resources available,” said Dr. Wolfson.
“For Florida, do you think it’s necessary to have these mass vaccination clinics?” Investigator Mahsa Saeidi asked.
“I think it will,” said Dr. Wolfson. “I think the more vaccination sites you have, assuming you have a product to deliver and good messaging and coordinated management, the better it is for the people of Florida.”
A copy of President Biden’s declaration is expected soon.
In the meantime, there are 4.5 million seniors in Florida. Gov. DeSantis says 700,000 have been vaccinated.