USA TODAY US Edition

Fla. of­fi­cials try to de­ter vac­cine tourists

Yet se­niors con­tinue to strug­gle for ap­point­ments

- Jane Mus­grave and John Pa­centi Medical Activism · U.S. News · Vaccines · Florida · Parsons · Citigroup · New York · Queensland · Palm Beach · United States of America · Ron DeSantis · Miami · Miami Beach · West Palm Beach · Palm Beach · Baptist Health · Florida Department of Health · Florida · U.S. Centers for Disease Control · Donald Trump · Medical Treatments · Time Warner · Time Warner Cable · Florida · The Palm · Lantana, FL · West Palm Beach · Richard Lynn Scott · Scott

While older res­i­dents are strug­gling to get shots, out-of-staters like for­mer Time Warner CEO Richard Par­sons are tout­ing ease of process.

While thou­sands of se­niors in Florida are bleary eyed and an­gry af­ter spend­ing weeks try­ing un­suc­cess­fully to get an ap­point­ment for a coro­n­avirus vac­cine, the for­mer chair­man and CEO of Time Warner told a na­tional tele­vi­sion au­di­ence on Fri­day that it was a breeze.

Richard Par­sons, who is also a for­mer chair­man of Cit­i­group, said he left his home of New York to travel to Florida specif­i­cally be­cause the Sun­shine State made it so easy.

“It’s or­derly and sen­si­ble,” the 72-year-old Par­sons said while ap­pear­ing on “Squawk Box” on CNBC. “I don’t know how Florida got the march on ev­ery­one else. But, you go on­line. You make an ap­point­ment. You get an ap­point­ment.”

While there is no ev­i­dence that Par­sons pulled any strings, se­niors who have ex­pe­ri­enced just how dif­fi­cult it is to get an ap­point­ment said they worry that the busi­ness gi­ant’s words will en­cour­age others, re­ports The Palm Beach Post, which is part of the USA TO­DAY Net­work.

“Oh my god,” said Carol DeLaster, who watched Par­sons’ in­ter­view from her home west of Lan­tana, Florida. “The peo­ple here can’t get the vac­cine, and he made it seem like it was a piece of cake.”

Later, she said, some­one on the pro­gram an­nounced that Florida was be­com­ing the vac­cine tourist cap­i­tal of the United States.

“They might as well have said, ‘Get on a plane. Come on down,’ ” said DeLaster, 76. “It’s crazy.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSan­tis has said that it is dif­fi­cult to block non­res­i­dents from get­ting vac­ci­nated be­cause Florida at­tracts so many snow­birds.

“We’re a tran­sient state,” DeSan­tis said Mon­day dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Miami. “You’ll have peo­ple that will be here and it’s not like they’re just on va­ca­tion for two weeks.”

Still, while it would be dif­fi­cult to turn away snow­birds, tourists who are “fly­ing by night” are a dif­fer­ent mat­ter, DeSan­tis said.

“We’re dis­cour­ag­ing peo­ple who come to Florida

just to get a vac­cine,” he said.

Par­sons, who owns a home in Miami Beach, said he was sup­posed to re­ceive a vac­cine on Sun­day.

Who is get­ting the COVID vac­cine?

The fear that the rich and pow­er­ful will snap up all the vac­cines is not un­founded.

Al­ready, MorseLife Health Sys­tem, a large el­der care sys­tem in West Palm Beach, Florida, is un­der state in­ves­ti­ga­tion for al­low­ing wealthy bene­fac­tors, some from New York, to be in­oc­u­lated with vac­cines that were sup­posed to be used only for res­i­dents and staff.

Fur­ther, Bap­tist Health South ac­knowl­edged this week that it al­lowed its “sup­port­ers” to re­ceive vac­ci­na­tions be­fore it made them avail­able to out­siders. All were over the age of 65 or were in high risk groups, said Michael Maucker, a Bap­tist Health spokesman.

DeSan­tis said on Wed­nes­day that MorseLife is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the De­part­ment of Health and the state’s in­spec­tor gen­eral.

He said he ex­pects the re­sults of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion soon.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., also has called for a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

MorseLife has not made any pub­lic state­ments on the mat­ter.

Vac­cine ‘tourists’ could be jump­ing ahead of res­i­dents

DeSan­tis said he is hop­ing vac­cine bot­tle­necks for res­i­dents are re­duced in the up­com­ing weeks and that he was pe­ti­tion­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to give the state more than the 250,000 doses it had been promised for the week, which was half of the amount the state re­ceived two weeks prior.

Still, Scott said he wants an­swers about how Florida is dis­tribut­ing the vac­cine.

In a let­ter Fri­day to Florida Sur­geon Gen­eral Scott Riv­kees, he asked pointed ques­tions about how peo­ple can get in­oc­u­lated.

Florida ex­pected to re­ceive 1.4 mil­lion doses by the end of the week, he said.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to a daily up­date from the Florida De­part­ment of Health, only 547,968 peo­ple in Florida had re­ceived the first shot and 39,988 had re­ceived the re­quired booster as of Mon­day.

How is vac­cine be­ing dis­trib­uted in New York and Florida?

Par­sons blamed the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for rais­ing hopes about the vac­cine and then not set­ting up dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels. “Frankly, it’s a mess be­cause there’s no co­or­di­na­tion, there’s no na­tional lead­er­ship,” he said.

But, he said, Florida is far more or­ga­nized than his home state.

It has also been one of the few states al­low­ing peo­ple as young as 65 to be first in line. Other states had been fol­low­ing guide­lines of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion to limit vac­cines to those 75 and older. But Tues­day the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion asked other states to ex­pand vac­ci­na­tions to peo­ple 65 and older.

Par­sons said New York’s dis­tri­bu­tion plan is a mess.

“In New York, they’re still busy try­ing to hand out the vac­cines to the var­i­ous dis­pensers,” he said on CNBC.

“No one can tell you when they’re go­ing to get their al­lo­ca­tion, how much they’re go­ing to get or what they’re go­ing to do with it.”

He didn’t say where he planned to go to get the vac­cine in South Florida.

He only said that sched­ul­ing it was easy.

 ?? CHARLES DHARA­PAK/AP ??
CHARLES DHARA­PAK/AP
 ?? JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES ?? Florida Gov. Ron DeSan­tis speaks last week about the open­ing of a COVID-19 vac­ci­na­tion site at the Hard Rock Sta­dium in Miami Gar­dens, Fla. Vac­ci­na­tions will be avail­able for res­i­dents 65 and older who can drive up in the park­ing lot.
JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES Florida Gov. Ron DeSan­tis speaks last week about the open­ing of a COVID-19 vac­ci­na­tion site at the Hard Rock Sta­dium in Miami Gar­dens, Fla. Vac­ci­na­tions will be avail­able for res­i­dents 65 and older who can drive up in the park­ing lot.
 ??  ?? Par­sons
Par­sons

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