State Watch

Florida Keys enclave, home to political donors, received COVID-19 vaccine as rest of state struggled

Nearly every elderly resident of an upscale community in the Florida Keys was vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-January, as the rest of the state struggled to obtain vaccines, the Miami Herald reports.

A community newsletter obtained by the Herald showed that the majority of the people aged 65 and over living in the Ocean Reef Club community had received vaccinations at the start of the new year.

The exclusive Key Largo community is home to many political donors, notably members of the Florida Republican Party who have given money to Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Herald notes.

In the newsletter, management of the private community wrote that over a two-week span, more than 1,200 homeowners who qualified under the state's order were vaccinated.

The newsletter also acknowledges the discrepancy between the Ocean Reef Club community residents' vaccine access and that of other people aged 65 and over in the state.

"We are fortunate to have received enough vaccines to ensure both the first and second for those vaccinated," the newsletter reads, according to the Herald.

"At this time, however, the majority of the State has not received an allocation of first doses of vaccines for this week and beyond, and the timing of any subsequent deliveries remains unclear."

DeSantis has come under scrutiny over his vaccine distribution plan in recent months. He's been accused of granting certain communities better access to the vaccine by allowing them to go through community organizations, including the Medical Center at Ocean Reef, instead of through local or state registration systems, according to the Herald.

The Sunshine State governor reportedly previously denied giving special treatment to particular communities.

"There's some people who are more upset at me for vaccinating seniors than they are at other governors whose policies have killed seniors, and that is a joke," DeSantis said, according to the Herald.

He has also defended his state's lack of a clear vaccine rollout plan.

"If you notice, a lot of those [states] adopted plans, and then they've already had to change the plans," DeSantis said last week. "We haven't done that."

DeSantis's office and the Ocean Reef Club did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment. 

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