LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. (WFLA) – Governor Ron DeSantis is defending a new pop-up vaccine clinic in Manatee County. The Lakewood Ranch site is exclusively for seniors in two wealthier zip codes.
The two zip codes 34202 and 34211 have 2,548 COVID-19 cases combined, according to the Florida Department of Health.
A heat map on Manatee County’s COVID-19 dashboard highlights the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases in dark orange.
As the heat map makes clear, the Lakewood Ranch zip codes targeted by the state’s new pop up COVID-19 vaccine site have fewer cases than other areas in the county.
For example, the 34221 zip code, excluded for the Lakewood Ranch site, has 4,358 cases.
8 On Your Side viewers want to know why Lakewood Ranch residents are getting exclusive vaccine access: three thousand doses just for them.
Meantime, other Manatee County residents hope to be selected at random via the county’s lottery system.
“There was no choice to pick certain zip codes,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference in Manatee County on Wednesday.
“We wanted to find communities that had high levels of seniors living there and this obviously has a high concentration.”
Gov. DeSantis stressed the county also gets 6,000 additional doses from the state. But these six thousand doses are for everybody. The 3,000 doses at Lakewood Ranch are just for those two zip codes.
“There’s way more cases in other parts of the county,” said Investigator Mahsa Saeidi. “Can you commit to doing a pop-up site just for those residents as well?”
“We’re not limiting it necessarily,” said Gov. DeSantis. “The six thousand doses that go to the county that is able to be apportioned how they see fit…we also have the Publix which is spread out all across the county that are able to do it.”
Gov. DeSantis said the Lakewood Ranch doses were not earmarked for Manatee County. The 3,000 doses are being used to supplement other efforts.
“If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it,” said Gov. DeSantis.
DeSantis has been widely criticized for giving special vaccine access to residents in Florida’s wealthiest zip codes. State data has showed residents in affluent areas are getting vaccinated at a faster rate than those in low-income neighborhoods.
Next week, Florida is expected to get 41,000 additional doses. Gov. DeSantis said there’ll likely be another vaccine push in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Both counties have less seniors vaccinated, as compared to the rest of the state.