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Instead of trashing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose administration has been found to have undercounted deaths, or California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose administration has overseen the worst coronavirus response in the country, White House press secretary Jen Psaki set her eyes on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
In a snarky statement made to the press on Monday, Psaki condescendingly slammed Florida for “only” distributing “about 50 percent of the vaccines that they have been given.” Less than 24 hours later, DeSantis fired back with a fact-check.
The hoopla started earlier this week when the Biden administration announced that it would be activating the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in distributing the coronavirus vaccine.
In response, Gov. DeSantis said in a statement to the media on Monday that he’d rather the Biden administration just “get us more vaccine” than “create these FEMA camps.”
“I saw some of this stuff Biden’s putting out, that he’s going to create these FEMA camps or whatever. I can tell you, that’s not necessary in Florida. All we need is more vaccine. Just get us more vaccine,” he said.
If you missed it, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) said Biden’s “gonna create these FEMA camps or whatever, that’s not necessary in Florida.” pic.twitter.com/dCWtDf5utk
— The Recount (@therecount) January 25, 2021
During a White House press briefing later Monday afternoon, Psaki was asked about the governor’s remarks.
“Florida governor Ron DeSantis has blasted part of the President’s COVID plans specifically saying, quote, ‘FEMA camps are not necessary in Florida.’ Has, or will, the President be reaching out to DeSantis? What is his reaction to comment like these?” a reporter asked.
In response, Psaki talked some trash.
“Well, the President is a pretty even-keeled guy. So I would say that he doesn’t have much of a reaction other than he wants to ensure that the vaccine is distributed to people across the country,” she said.
“Including, of course, the millions of people living in Florida. And I will note, because we’re data first here, facts first here, they’ve only distributed about 50 percent of the vaccines that they have been given in Florida.”
According to Becker’s Hospital Review, as of Thursday, Florida’s distribution rate was at 52.73 percent, and so the baseline fact shared by Psaki wasn’t wrong.
What was wrong and disingenuous was her implication that this rate is bad. DeSantis explained in a fact-check published to Twitter on Tuesday why it’s actually excellent.
“The insinuation that Florida is underutilizing vaccines is totally disingenuous. Florida is number one in the country among the top 10 most populous states for vaccine doses per capita. Additionally, Florida is averaging more than 300,000 first doses per week but we are not going to divert second doses away from our seniors,” he said.
“If the implication is that we should be giving those second doses away to other people, that is not the way the FDA had prescribed the series.”
After receiving the first dose of the vaccine, patients must wait a few weeks before receiving the second dose. So if Florida or any other state gives the first dose to 1,000 people, as an example, it must pre-allocate an additional 1,000 for the second dose.
What’s happened in Florida is that 1,632,491 doses have been administrated, while 1,463,359 remain in the stockpile. DeSantis’s argument is that the remaining 1,463,359 haven’t been administrated not because of incompetence by his administration but rather because they’ve been pre-allocated for 1,463,359 first-dose patients.
View his statement below:
This morning I was asked to address recent comments from the White House about Florida’s vaccine allocation. Here is my statement ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/imwvT67sRo
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 26, 2021
“We are committed to ensuring our seniors are the priority and get their second dose, and if the White House is suggesting that we shouldn’t be doing that, I don’t think that’s a good suggestion. If the implication is that we should be giving those second doses away to other people, that is not the way the FDA had prescribed the series,” DeSantis continued.
“We are also number one in the nation by far for vaccinations of seniors, as Florida has vaccinated more than 1 million seniors 65 and older to date. If we are given additional first doses, we are ready to double our output. The possibilities are endless here in Florida, but it is contingent on us getting additional supply from the government.”
His point here is that for Florida to administer more first doses, which is what Psaki seems to want, it must first receive more vaccines from the government. Otherwise, it would risk eating into its pre-allocated second doses.
Speaking on “Fox News Primetime” late Thursday, the governor explained his point in further detail.
“What she said was they’ve only administered 54 percent. What she didn’t say is the ones that haven’t been administered are going to be administered on schedule because it’s the second doses for people,” he said.
“So the suggestion she was trying to make is that Florida should be just giving away second doses to people who aren’t coming in for their second dose. Our elderly population wants to get the second dose. So you’re going to see the second doses in Florida really spike because people are scheduled for it. But we’re not going to squander those second doses,” he added.
He also explained why he’d complained about Biden’s FEMA plans.
“All we were saying is you have all these things you’re saying you’re going to do, but it’s really not necessary. And I think a lot of Democrat governors agree with me,” DeSantis explained. “Just get more supply of the vaccine, because we were promised initially we were going to get more. I can get it to seniors if we can just get more in shipments.”
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