U.S. Reps ask Florida Gov. DeSantis for details on vaccine rollout, following jammed phone lines and overwhelmed websites

The state didn’t provide a blueprint for hospitals to distribute the vaccinations, and hospital policies across the state have differed.

click to enlarge U.S. Reps ask Florida Gov. DeSantis for details on vaccine rollout, following jammed phone lines and overwhelmed websites
Photo via Tampa General Hospital/Facebook

Fourteen members of Florida’s congressional delegation on Friday sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis requesting that he provide them with a briefing on the state’s COVID-10 vaccination efforts.

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat, and Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart spearheaded the bipartisan request.

“We are eager to learn more and believe a briefing from you, or your designee, would enable us to respond to those constituent inquiries, conduct oversight of the vaccination process, and better advocate for the federal government to provide additional technical or other assistance where appropriate and necessary for smooth distribution,” the Jan. 8 letter reads. “All of us share your goal of making the vaccination process in Florida as swift and effective as possible in order to save lives.”

The letter came as DeSantis faces increasing criticism of the state’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Joining Murphy and Diaz-Balart in requesting a virtual meeting with the governor were Republican Florida U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Carlos Giménez and María Elvira Salazar, along with Democratic U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Darren Soto and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

DeSantis announced Dec. 23 that Floridians age 65 and older will be eligible to receive vaccinations, along with health-care workers who have direct contact with patients.

The majority of the burden to provide the inoculations fell on Florida hospitals, which also were given discretion to make shots available to people they determine to be “extremely vulnerable.”

County health departments also were directed to assist in the vaccination efforts.

DeSantis’ order to make the vaccine available to people age 65 and older was at odds with federal guidelines, which recommended giving vaccinations to essential workers and individuals age 75 and older.

DeSantis has defended his decision but it has led to a run on the scarce vaccinations, jammed websites and overwhelmed phone systems as people scrambled to make appointments for the shots.

In some areas of the state, seniors camped out in lines overnight in hopes of getting the sought-after vaccines.The state didn’t provide a blueprint for hospitals to distribute the vaccinations, and hospital policies across the state have differed.

DeSantis said this week he has directed the state’s inspector general to investigate allegations that a West Palm Beach nursing facility diverted vaccines that were meant for staff and residents to members of its board of directors and donors. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott sent a letter to DeSantis Thursday requesting an investigation into the incident at MorseLife Health System.

Scott, a former Florida governor, on Friday renewed his call for an investigation in a letter to Florida Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees. 

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