Sunday, February 21, 2021

COVID Vaccine Distribution in Manatee County - Random Luck or Living in the Right ZIP Code


WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD 

Governor Ron DeSantis's decision to politicize the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Manatee County has literally opened Pandora's box.

Governor DeSantis, a Republican, has ignored federal guidelines and prioritized getting senior citizens, one of Florida’s biggest voting blocs, vaccinated first.

His most-recent foray into vaccines for votes occurred as he worked with Lakewood Ranch developers to provide a pop-up vaccination site just for them.

For more information check out this article from NBC News By Corky Siemaszko: Florida governor accused of playing politics with Covid vaccine

The parent company of Lakewood Ranch Schroeder - Manatee Ranch (SMR) has given millions of dollars to the Republican Party.

It turns out the Lakewood Ranch area in question has one of the county's lowest COVID case rates and lowest COVID death rates.

Here is more:

Tampa Bay Times By Ryan Callihan and Jessica De Leon: Well-off Manatee residents get special vaccine access, courtesy of DeSantis

Tampa Bay Times By Ryan Callihan: DeSantis threatens to divert vaccines from Manatee after backlash on access

Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, a Republican who has close ties to Governor DeSantis, helped arrange the use of a Manatee County Sports Complex located in Lakewood Ranch to serve as the vaccine distribution site.

As the decision to provide the vaccine pop-up site, began to come apart Commissioner Baugh defended her decision to support the effort frequently saying, “I'm sorry if you're upset, but I would do it again."

The question seems to be is Commissioner Baugh sorry or not? So much for protocol.

Meanwhile, there are literally thousands and thousands of seniors in Manatee County who have gone onto the website filled out all the information and are waiting for the supposed lottery draw of their name to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

The question now becomes is that lottery process truly a lottery? We know it has an age definition of 65 and older but does it also have a zip code component, or a political party affiliation component?

I'm one of those over 65 people who just went online, filled out all the information, and I'm patiently waiting for some form of notification that I can go get a COVID-19 vaccination.

My zip code is 34221 I don't know if I'm in or out, I don't know if I'm part of the lottery or sitting in a little bucket over here with a red R on the side that says he can wait.

The Manatee County Commission needs to get their act together an establish a citizen's review group of two or three or four people with cross party affiliations and let them act as an oversight committee on the determination of how these lottery entries are selected.

If it's truly random that's fine. If they're being sorted by zip code or any other attribute the public needs to know that.

Governor DeSantis is well within his legal rights to do what he did at Lakewood Ranch, and the other places where he is set up or proposing to set up pop-up vaccination sites.

At least, he is in his legal rights, as long as there is some hint of fairness. If all of these pop-up sites end up in Republican voter and/or contributor's strongholds throughout the state, then it's time for a serious investigation.

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