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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — flanked by Sarasota County Commissioner Christian Ziegler, state Sen. Joe Gruters and Venice City Council member Nick Pachota — speaks to media Feb. 10 at a COVID-10 vaccine pop-up drive-thru vaccination site in Venice as a part of a Department of Health-Sarasota County event.

OUR POSITION: The state is doing too little to help people get an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.

One irate Deep Creek resident, who happens to be a strong presence in Charlotte County’s Republican circles, wanted to remind Gov. Ron DeSantis that his neighbors pay taxes and his neighbors need the COVID-19 vaccine too.

His message was in response to DeSantis’ celebrated vaccine tour.

The governor visited Venice and Port Charlotte last week — just two of the many stops on his visit to mostly Republican strongholds to hand out doses of the vaccine. While thousands of Floridians benefited from the governor’s visits, there were many more who questioned how the lucky vaccine recipients were chosen.

That is a question we are asking also.

Jealously surely played a role in the response to the governor’s statewide tour, funded of course by Florida taxpayers. We’re happy for the people, all 65 and over, who were able to get the vaccine. They were surely no different from the tens of thousands of angry Floridians fed up with trying to get through to Publix or using other avenues to grab a rare appointment.

The hap-hazard approach to getting Florida’s population vaccinated has frustrated everyone who has not been lucky enough to get a shot in the arm. They — and we — don’t understand how a state government which knew the vaccine was coming for months did not have a better system in place to vaccinate the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

DeSantis didn’t answer any of those questions as far as we know on his visits to Venice and Port Charlotte. He did take advantage of those stops to make what amounted to campaign speeches, criticize the media and tout the increased number of doses headed to Florida.

Two subjects the governor avoided, however, was the problem of people getting an appointment for the vaccine and the fact the flow of vaccine into the state has a lot to do with President Joe Biden’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. DeSantis, in an earlier press conference last week, did acknowledge the program’s impact on getting more vaccine but he did not mention Biden.

Local Democrats, naturally, were quick to slam DeSantis for his vaccine tour. Fran Dance, a Charlotte County Democrat Club communications committee chair, accused DeSantis of taking the vaccine to Republican-dominated developments like Kings Gate and the Villages. He said the governor should be making sure those who need the vaccine the most are getting it.

Meanwhile, as the governor made speeches and proceeded to keep his mask in his pocket while basking in the praise from those lucky enough to get the vaccine, long lines and frustration were common around the state.

Last week, some people waiting in mile-long lines in Tampa ended up turned away when second doses ran out. It was all part of the confusion and poor communication from the state which incorrectly told some people they did not need an appointment for a second dose.

According to a Tampa Bay Times story, Hillsborough County had previously told residents who had gotten first doses at their vaccine sites that they should return to the same site for their second doses 21 days later, even if they hadn’t gotten confirmation of an appointment, confirmed Kevin Watler, a spokesman with the Hillsborough health department.

But the state’s rules are different.

“Those due for second shots will get vaccinated. We apologize for the confusion and know it is incredibly frustrating,” Watler said.

It’s just another example of the lack of planning and coordination by the state that has resulted in many people — at their wit’s end trying to get an appointment giving up hope.

The governor should be embarrassed by how the state has failed to come up with a best plan to vaccinate its population. Instead, he prefers to put on his best, maskless face and pander to his base in campaign-style drop-ins.

We can do better.


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