DeSantis indirectly calls out Lee Health for chaotic vaccine rollout when state ultimately responsible

Reporter: Morgan Rynor Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

The start of the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine in Lee County has made headlines worldwide. Hundreds of people over 65 have camped out overnight, many nights in a row, for the Moderna vaccine.

We looked at what Gov. Ron DeSantis’ response to these realties under his leadership in the state have been.

DeSantis recently had a heated exchange with a reporter during a conference who asked about how the vaccine was being administered statewide, while focusing on issues with rollout in certain counties. Lee County was among those mentioned.

Desantis pointed the finger at Lee Health, even though he never said the name of the health system specifically. But it’s Florida Department of Health in Lee County that is responsible for vaccine distribution, which does take direction from the governor.

“We distributed vaccine to hospitals, and the hospitals said first come, first served, and just show up, and we’ll do it, so they didn’t use a registration system,” DeSantis said. “There wasn’t anything that was done. There’s a lot of demand for it, so people are going to want to go ahead.”

What the governor gets wrong here is hospitals (Lee Health) has nothing to do with vaccine distribution in Lee County at this time. It still falls on the state health department in the county.

The reporter also asked the governor if the state will adopt a plan to ensure senior citizens won’t have to wait in long, overnight lines for the vaccine to mitigate any other problems already seen. The focus was again placed on hospitals that are not responsible vaccinating those who are eligible.

“The state is not dictating to hospitals,” DeSantis said. “That would be a total disaster.”

Angela Smith, the administrator for DOH-Lee, took the blame for early distribution problems this past Sunday.

“With the intention to get as many shots in arms as we could, initially, we thought that first come, first serve was the quickest way,” Smith said. “But we cannot call the long lines, the overnight waits and the perceived lack of planning a success.”

Governor’s office statement

The office of Gov. Ron DeSantis shared in a statement, The Governor directs priority groups at the State level and each health department at the local level is in charge of how that vaccine is rolled out at the County level. The Governor’s direction to hospitals was to begin vaccinating other healthcare workers and 65+ once they have vaccinated their healthcare workers.

The vaccination report showing the vaccination number for each county can be found here: COVID-19 Vaccine Report. As with testing, vaccination is recorded under the persons county of residence regardless of where they received the vaccine.

RESOURCE: WINK News is working by the minute on a daily basis to bring our coverage areas in Southwest Florida the latest COVID-19 vaccine information from the counties you live in.

Visit our COVID-19 vaccine schedules and information for SWFL story for rolling vaccine updates.

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