Governor Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida sent an additional 3,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Manatee County for a pop-up vaccination site in Lakewood Ranch. Senior began getting doses there on Wednesday at the Premier Sports Complex. 

But it’s how people were chosen for those doses that has some residents and county commissioners upset.

What You Need To Know

  • Pop-up vaccination site at Lakewood Ranch was controversial

  • 3,000 people were vaccinated

  • They live in two nearby zip codes

  • Names were selected from county’s standby pool, which is supposed to be random

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh says she was contacted by developer Rex Jensen about helping to set up the site. She says Governor DeSantis had reached out to him about opening it.

Baugh, who is chair of the board, told fellow commissioners about the plan during a meeting on Tuesday. She said she made the decision to limit which seniors would be eligible for those doses to only people who live in two nearby zip codes. They were chosen from the county’s standby pool, where residents have been told they’ll be picked at random as doses become available. 

Baugh said she didn’t see an issue with doing that, and she took full responsibility for it. Other commissioners were glad the county was getting additional doses but disappointed every senior awaiting a shot wasn’t given the opportunity to get one of the doses.

“I do not blame anything at all on Mr. Jensen or the governor because why wouldn’t I have taken them? But I think how we handled it, how our chairman of the board handled it, was not correct,” Commissioner Carol Whitmore said.

“The more people we can get vaccinated, the more people we can get off that pool, the better. Were there other ways of doing it? Probably. Going forward are there going to be other ways of doing it? I would expect so,” Commissioner George Kruse said.

The Governor was asked about the doses being limited to people within two zip codes. He said Lakewood Ranch was chosen because of its large population of seniors and the resources and space that were available. 

“It wasn’t a choice about zip codes. It was a choice about where is a high concentration of seniors where you can have communities provide the ability for them to go on,” Governor DeSantis said Wednesday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures as he speaks to the media at a coronavirus vaccination site at Lakewood Ranch Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Bradenton, Fla. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

This wasn’t the first pop-up site organized across the state. It also wasn’t the first time a particular area was the focus for vaccinations. Just this week, MCR Health held a clinic in an underserved neighborhood.

“That was a well thought out but selective situation which people didn’t complain when people went to Rubonia, and for good reason. It was necessary, and I think that was a good thing MCR did with their allocation. But it’s the same from one side to the other. It’s just a hand selected group,” said Commissioner Kruse. 

Commissioners have said moving forward, this won’t happen again. They say if the county receives additional doses again, they won’t be limited to particular groups of seniors.