Gov. DeSantis fires back, assures seniors they'll get COVID booster shots

Governor Ron DeSantis is responding to White House claims that Florida has used only half of its COVID-19 vaccines sent by the federal government, calling it "disingenuous." 

"I will note because we’re data-first here, facts-first here, they’ve only distributed about 50 percent of the vaccines that they have been given in Florida," Biden press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday afternoon.

At first glance, numbers from the CDC support the White House’s claim: 2,908,275 COVID-19 vaccines have been given to the state, but only 1,544,794, about 53 percent, have been put into someone’s arm.

But as the governor points out, there can be a delay in the federal data of up to 72 hours, depending on the health care provider administering the vaccine.

He also says the state is holding back supply for the booster shots, which are required for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to be fully effective.

DeSantis calls on federal government to send more COVID-19 vaccine doses to Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says the federal government needs to send more COVID-19 vaccines to the state in order to meet the increasing demand from residents. But the White House pushed back, saying Florida has only administered about half of the vaccines it has been given.

"We’re not going to divert second doses away from seniors. Seniors want it, we’re going to do it," DeSantis said. "So if the implication is you should be giving those doses away to other people, that’s not the way the FDA has prescribed it."

The governor has criticized President Biden’s plan to loop in FEMA to the distribution process, instead urging the federal government to send the state more vaccines. 

"We’re at the mercy of whatever is sent," DeSantis said. "So if they send 500,000 first doses instead of 266,000, I can double the drive-thru sites."

Psaki says the challenge goes beyond having vaccines in-hand.

"Also having vaccinators and vaccine distribution places, and doing it in a way that’s reaching people where they are and meeting local communities," she said.

DeSantis walks back claim over 1 million seniors vaccinated

The governor says the state has vaccinated 1.3 million people overall -- seniors and health care workers included. That includes WWII vet Henry Sayler, who became the millionth senior to receive a shot Friday.

Florida’s rate of vaccine administration versus distribution mirrors the national figure, at about 53%. It’s higher than California’s 45%, but lower than New York’s 57%, according to the CDC.

The governor says Florida’s distribution network – which includes hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores and major drive-thru testing sites is working – and that Florida leads the nation in the number of doses administered. 

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

The White House has denied that press secretary Jen Psaki’s remarks were a targeted attack on DeSantis. During Monday’s press briefing, Psaki said President Biden will be focused on vaccine distribution in a bipartisan manner.