WASHINGTON, D.C. — A White House official says Florida has only used about half of the COVID-19 vaccine supply it's received from the federal government, despite repeated calls from Gov. Ron DeSantis for the Biden Administration to immediately send more doses to the state.
At a Monday afternoon briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki addressed recent comments by DeSantis, who has been critical of the Biden Administration's plan to open dozens of FEMA-operated COVID-19 vaccination sites across the country.
"I will note, because we're data first, facts first here, they've only distributed about 50% of the vaccines that they have been given in Florida," Psaki said. "So clearly, they have a good deal of the vaccine. That supply will need to continue to increase as they are able to effectively reach people across the state."
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Speaking in Jacksonville on Monday, DeSantis said Florida has received about 1.7 million first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and has distributed those first doses to 1,224,188 people in the Sunshine State.
"When you look at it from the perspective of the first doses, we've done a very high percentage of them, and we continue to go even higher," DeSantis said.
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DeSantis admitted that Florida does have "unused" doses of the vaccine, but those are mostly second doses that have yet to be administered.
As of Monday, Florida has received about 964,000-second doses from the federal government and has reported giving 157,972 of those doses to people in the state, according to DeSantis.
"That is gonna change dramatically because people are gonna start coming due on their Moderna every day that we go by," DeSantis said. "What you'll start to see as we get through this week and into next, you're gonna start to see more and more second doses done."
The governor, who believes federal vaccination sites are "not necessary" in Florida, once again urged the Biden Administration on Monday to send more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Sunshine State.
DeSantis said that between mass vaccination sites like Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Publix pharmacies, hospitals and county health departments, Florida has more than enough locations to administer the vaccine.
What the state needs now, DeSantis said, is more supply.
"We don't have a big cache sitting around at the state. We only get what they send us. The sole focus for the federal government should be increasing the number of doses available for the states," DeSantis said. "We were told weeks ago that we would start to see increases now and we've haven't seen it. We've been very stagnant this whole month."
DeSantis said Florida has been receiving around 266,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine each week.
"If we can get 500,000 a week, instead of just 266,000, we're gonna be able to vaccinate that many more seniors that much more quickly," DeSantis said. "We're at the mercy of what the federal government sends us."
Psaki told reporters at the White House that the challenge is not just having enough supply of the COVID-19 vaccine, but also having enough vaccinators and vaccination sites.
"Doing it in a way that's reaching people where they are and meeting local communities," Psaki said. "And the president's gonna be focused on that in a bipartisan manner, regardless of what any elected official may have to say."
Psaki added the Biden Administration is inheriting a COVID-19 response plan from President Donald Trump's administration that's "much worse than we could have imagined."
"We are assessing now what we have access to, and ensuring that we have more of a rapid engagement with states so that they have more of a heads up on what to expect in the weeks ahead," Psaki said.
Last week, President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a program to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine through local pharmacies.
In addition, Biden said his administration is planning to open 100 vaccination sites across the country through the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order to help administer 100 million doses in his first 100 days in office.