Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is rejecting the notion of prioritizing prison inmates for COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of the state’s seniors, as virus-linked deaths in state prisons continue to surge.
The Republican governor has pledged to make seniors’ access to vaccinations a state priority. He said during a Feb. 1 press briefing that Florida ranks first or second in the country in terms of the percentage of seniors receiving vaccinations.
“So far, Florida has given a higher percentage of its vaccinations to senior citizens than any other state in the country,” DeSantis told reporters at a briefing to announce further drive-through vaccination sites in the state.
“The first state in the country to put seniors first … that has been our goal, that’s been our policy. We haven’t wavered from that. And of course, now many states are following Florida to put seniors first.”
Nearly 30 percent of the state’s 4.5 million seniors have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, DeSantis said.
However, when pressed by the media on the possibility of vaccinating prison inmates first, given that the death toll in the state’s prison system rose above 200 this month, DeSantis brushed off the idea.
“There’s some states that are still in single digits on that,” DeSantis said, referring to vaccine administration for senior citizens. “You know, some of these states are vaccinating prisoners instead of seniors. They’re vaccinating drug addicts instead of seniors.
“Whose priorities are you looking out for? We’re looking out for our parents and grandparents here in Florida,” he said. “There’s no way you’re going to get some prisoner a vaccine over a senior citizen. And so our seniors-first promise is ironclad.”
According to nonprofit criminal justice news site The Marshall Project, which tracks COVID-19 deaths in prisons, Florida has recorded the most inmate deaths of any state prison system—205 as of Jan. 26.
In the three weeks ending Jan. 22, just over 560 state prison inmates were tested for COVID-19, and 45 percent of those tests came back positive, the Orlando Sentinel reported, citing data from the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC),
The FDC’s website states that as of Jan. 27, 22 correctional institutions have active cases of CCP virus. It notes that if an inmate begins experiencing symptoms indicative of COVID-19, they will be placed in medical isolation and tested.