Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican and vocal ally of ex-President Donald Trump, appeared to threaten to withhold the potentially lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine from his political opponents within local governments on Wednesday. After “facing questions about why he set up an exclusive vaccine site for residents of a development that donated six figures to his campaign,” as Tampa Bay reporter Steve Contorno explains, DeSantis said that his team could simply move the vaccine site to someplace else. Arbitrarily withholding the vaccine from certain people because of a political spat with local authorities, even if those people are subsequently able to get the vaccine in the future, is absolutely ghoulish behavior.
After facing questions about why he set up an exclusive vaccine site for residents of a development that donated six figures to his campaign, Gov. DeSantis says if Manatee Co officials don't like it "just tell us and we’ll make sure to give the doses to those who want it."
— Steve Contorno (@scontorno) February 17, 2021
Local authorities, of course, have been working on supporting the public health needs of their constituents, and reshuffling vaccine resources from the Florida state government because of political opposition could set their efforts significantly back. He could have responded to questioning by offering to open up resources, but instead, this path is the route that he took. DeSantis told reporters as follows, discussing the vaccination support in question:
‘But look, if Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it, and we’re totally happy to do that. So anyone that’s [expressing concern], let us know. If you want us to send it to Sarasota next time, or Charlotte, or Pasco, or wherever, let us know — we’re happy to do it. But I think most people, if we have an opportunity to bring vaccines and do it efficiently, I think that they’re gonna want it.’
Watch his petulant comments below:
Unforced error? Famously combative with media, @GovRonDeSantis today says public criticisms about vaccine distribution in parts of Florida could divert vaccines to areas where there are no political criticisms of his efforts https://t.co/jqETqNjI9T pic.twitter.com/Idy4mfTJdk
— Ted Bridis (@tbridis) February 17, 2021
DeSantis’s behavior, of course, mirrors Trump’s own actions while in office. Trump repeatedly attempted to politicize the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, complaining, for instance, that so-called blue states were responsible for much of the death toll at one point. Americans reside in those so-called blue states, of course, but this basic concern of shared humanity didn’t phase Trump! Instead, he occupied himself with political infighting while the country struggled, and now DeSantis seems ready to behave similarly.
Throughout the pandemic, DeSantis has rolled out a familiarly Trumpian response. Although local authorities have imposed mandates, the state of Florida has never had a statewide mask-wearing mandate, and DeSantis has repeatedly refused to impose strict lockdown measures. Across the pandemic as a whole, Florida has suffered over 29,000 COVID-19 deaths and over 1.8 million confirmed cases.