Seniors want Manatee commissioner to resign following ‘exclusive’ vaccine clinic in Lakewood Ranch


MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – The state-run vaccine clinic in Lakewood Ranch might be over, but backlash surrounding the exclusive site is still heating up in Manatee County. Different groups are now calling for the commissioner who helped organize the controversial clinic to step down.

There is a demonstration planned for Tuesday morning outside the Manatee County Government building ahead of a planned commission meeting. The protesters are calling on Commissioner Vanessa Baugh to resign.

Commissioner Baugh, who represents Lakewood Ranch, took responsibility for the zip code restrictions at the state-run site. She made a public apology during a commission workshop last week where she also admitted to creating a ‘VIP’ list for the clinic.

“I’m glad people are being called out for the unfair treatment and thinking that they can get away with it with a flipping apology. Commissioners represent all of the people, not just the ones that donate to them or are in the same party as them,” said Bradenton resident Ruth Lawler.

Lawler has been waiting for her name to be called from the county’s waiting pool since early January.

“We should all get a fair shot at it. I don’t mind the lottery. I think that is a fair way to do it as long as it equitable. When you have 3000 that are not adherent to the lottery, that is not a good situation,” said Lawler.

The 72-year-old is planning on protesting Tuesday morning. She feels Baugh needs to be held accountable.

The Manatee County Democratic Party is also calling out Baugh. Chair Tracy Pratt sent a letter to commissioners condemning Baugh’s handling of the Lakewood Ranch clinic.

“That is not representation. That is not supporting the people. There needs to be a full investigation of this and we’ve demanded Vanessa Baugh’s resignation immediately,” said Pratt. “Vanessa Baugh is an elected official who has betrayed the trust of voters by creating a ‘pay to play’ VIP system that benefits her and a select few in the community,” she continued.

Baugh did not respond to our request for comment.

Congressman Charlie Crist is also speaking out following the Lakewood Ranch vaccine clinic. The state lawmaker is requesting a federal investigation into Governor Ron DeSantis’s handling of the vaccine distribution in Florida.

“He brings 3000 vaccines to Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County, an affluent community and a lovely community quite frankly and says, you know, we are going to give 3,000 vaccines to the people in this community and nobody else in Manatee County can get them; nobody in the inner city, nobody in the brown or black communities. This is mostly a white, affluent, Republican community I should add,” said Rep. Crist.

Congressman Crist tells 8 On Your Side he feels Gov. DeSantis made the wrong call.

“He is picking winners and losers and when we’re talking about giving out the vaccine, they are not just winners or losers in a corporate sense.. these are living people or dying people. That is the kind of decision the governor is making right now and in my opinion, he is doing it in a way that must be investigated by the Department of Justice because it is not equitable, it is not fair,” said Rep. Crist. “It is unequal the way he is doing it and it is just unconscionable to me,” he continued.

8 On Your Side contacted the Governor’s office Monday morning for comment. As of 7 p.m., we have not received a response.

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