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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Biden administration butt heads on COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Governor calls press secretary's comments 'disingenous'
Posted at 6:50 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 18:50:44-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Less than a week after the swearing-in of a new president, Florida's governor is butting heads with the Biden administration. The two traded barbs over the status of Florida’s vaccine rollout.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus

Biden Press Sec. Jen Psaki called out Florida on Monday for needing to boost distribution. Citing CDC data, she said vaccinators had only given out about 50% of the state's allotted shots.

Gov. Ron DeSantis responded Tuesday morning, calling Psaki's comments "disingenuous." He said most of the state's shots are second doses, held in reserve. He then pushed the feds for more supply.

"We have the throughput," DeSantis said. "You have every place that's doing this, can do more. I think just getting more dose, that's really the No. 1 thing."

Florida COVID-19 vaccine doses used for overall doses given as of Jan. 26, 2020
Figures show that Florida is slightly below the national average for doses distributed in respect to those received.

DeSantis, an ally of former President Donald Trump, also touted the state's vaccine efforts to date. He told reporters at a Vero Beach news conference more than a million of those 65 and older had received shots to date.

"We are No. 1 in the country for doses per capita for the top ten states -- the most populous states," DeSantis said.

Epidemiologists, however, believed Florida was about average, statistically.

Joshua Scacco
University of South Florida Professor Joshua Scacco says we can expect more tension between the Biden administration and Republican-led states like Florida.

University of South Florida Professor Jason Salemi reported the state was slightly above average for doses given per 100 people (U.S. 7.1, Florida 7.3). Florida was below average for overall use of doses received (U.S. 56.6%, Florida 53.8%).

"We are doing well relative to some larger states like Texas or California for some of these measures," Salemi said. "And, kind of in the middle of the pack relative to a lot of states in the country in general."

As far as the back and forth rhetoric, political experts didn't expect it to stop anytime soon.

"If the last four years were smooth sailing, get ready for bumpy seas ahead," said USF Professor Joshua Scacco, who teaches political communication.

Scacco predicted tension would continue as the new administration asserted more federal control of vaccine efforts, while limited-government leaders like DeSantis resisted.

"Just as in the last four years, we saw Democratic-led states pushing back against policies or lack thereof policies from Washington, D.C," Scacco said. "We’re going to see the reverse right now."

One of those new policies from D.C. is the creation of federal vaccination sites. Biden believes they will help get shots in arms more quickly. DeSantis has concerns the sites would siphon off state supplies.