Crist calls on DOJ to investigate DeSantis over coronavirus vaccine distribution
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) sent a letter to acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson on Sunday, calling on the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) over allegations that the governor was selecting vaccine administration sites to benefit political supporters.
“I write with concern about reports that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is establishing coronavirus vaccine distribution and administration sites to select locations to benefit political allies and donors, over the needs of higher risk communities and existing county waitlists,” Crist wrote.
“In several cases, these sites seem to be targeted to wealthy communities with whom Governor DeSantis has clear political connections, allowing some to skip to the front of the line in counties with existing waitlists,” the representative continued.
Crist pointed to a surprise announcement DeSantis made on Feb. 17 that 3,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine would be available to the wealthy community Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County. Lakewood Ranch’s parent company is owned by a major Republican donor who has given $900,000 to DeSantis, Crist said, also noting that the area had lower COVID-19 infection rates within the county.
Why is Governor DeSantis playing politics with vaccine distribution? His political allies & donors should not get to skip the line. Calling for full DOJ investigation. pic.twitter.com/OTjpkdD1o4
— Congressman Charlie Crist (@RepCharlieCrist) February 21, 2021
Crist is himself a former governor of Florida and earlier this month did not rule out challenging DeSantis in 2022.
Many lawmakers and commentators have decried the seeming inequitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines, with wealthier areas appearing to be prioritized over disadvantaged communities.
DeSantis has shot back at criticisms of his own vaccine distribution plan, earning further backlash after he threatened to divert vaccines away from communities that have criticized him.
“If there’s going to be folks that are going to complain about getting more vaccines, you know, I’ll tell you what, I mean, I wouldn’t be complaining, I’d be thankful that we’re able to do it because, you know what, we didn’t need to do this at all,” DeSantis said last week.
The Florida governor has been accused of being too lax on enforcing coronavirus guidelines. An investigative report by the Sun found that Florida health officials had been asked by DeSantis’s office to avoid talking about the pandemic leading up to the election.
“Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic must be our top priority. Given the enormous latitude Governors have over vaccine distribution, it would be unconscionable for political corruption to trump both fairness and the best medical guidance,” Crist wrote. “These are literally life and death decisions. While I am anxious for every Floridian, in every community, to get the vaccine as soon as possible, it should be don based on fairness, not political connection.”
The Hill has reached out to DeSantis’s office for a response.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida has confirmed more than 1.8 million coronavirus cases and nearly 30,000 deaths.