Agriculture commissioner calls for Gov. DeSantis to fix ‘chaotic’ vaccine distribution

Coronavirus
NIKKI FRIED AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER

Nikki Fried, Democratic candidate for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, speaks during a campaign rally, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

TAMPA (WFLA) -Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is calling on Governor Ron DeSantis to recommend he mobilize the Florida National Guard to coordinate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, given the slow nationwide vaccine rollout.

Fried says the state has received over 1.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine and 146,160 vaccine doses have been administered, 15 percent of available vaccine doses.

DeSantis reiterated Wednesday the importance of residents aged 65 and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during a press conference in Delray Beach.

DeSantis said the senior citizen population has “been most at risk for COVID. It’s impacted their lives greater and we have a responsibility to stand by those folks who’ve done so much to make our state and country what it is today.”

Fried’s letter reads as follows:

Governor DeSantis,

As you know, the initial nationwide distribution and administration of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for COVID-19 has fallen dangerously short of expectations. While 20 million vaccinations were expected to have been administered by the end of this month, only 11.4 million doses have been distributed as of this week, with just 2.3 million doses administered.

In Florida, despite the state receiving 1,218,300 vaccine doses, only 15 percent of those have actually been administered – just 0.68 percent of our state’s population. The lack of preparation and progress on administering these critical, life-saving vaccines is inexcusable.

According to media reports, the vaccine distribution your administration oversees has been characterized as “very chaotic,” with a “lack of clear strategy to vaccinate the public,” and healthcare professionals have “lacked clear direction from the state” on vaccination procedures. Instead of efficient, centralized distribution management by the State of Florida, distribution has been left to hospitals and county health departments. While you characterize this as “cutting out the middle man,” vulnerable residents are left without answers or clear direction from overwhelmed local agencies on when, where, and how to receive the vaccine.

With the State of Florida just yesterday recording a record-high 22.75 percent positivity rate and continuous near-record numbers of new cases, we cannot afford further delay. I strongly encourage you to mobilize Florida National Guard resources to oversee a timely, orderly, centralized process for distributing COVID-19 vaccines to Floridians, including a benchmark of administering 100 percent of available vaccines within ten days of those vaccines’ arrival in Florida.

I also request that the matter of COVID-19 vaccine distribution be placed on the agenda for the next scheduled meeting of the Florida Cabinet, and that any relevant personnel from the Florida Department of Health, Florida Department of Military Affairs, and Florida Division of Emergency Management be present to answer questions from the Cabinet.

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