ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Leaders in St. Petersburg’s African American community are upset about how the COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out.
They say Governor Ron Desantis is playing favorites while people of color have had little access to the vaccine. They say their frustrations have intensified after allegations surfaced last week that DeSantis is prioritizing wealthy communities over minorities, which have felt the pandemic the worst.
Only around 5% of Florida’s Black and Hispanic communities have received the vaccine.
"What we have now is African Americans sitting at the back door not waiting at the front door, not even allowed to come in the front door," said Watson Haynes, CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League.
Congressman Charlie Crist joined them Monday at a media event in South St. Pete where he again called for a Department of Justice investigation.
"Directing vaccines towards the politically connected and away from the millions who have been waiting in line for months for this life-saving vaccine is just plain wrong," Crist told reporters.
DeSantis has denied any wrongdoing and said areas that are densely populated by seniors 65 and up have always been the priority.
"[You] go where the seniors are and try to knock it out," DeSantis said during a news conference last week.
The governor has been pushing for pop-up sites at many black churches, but in communities where transportation, having a high-speed connection to register, is more difficult, community leaders say not enough is being done.
"People are dying and there is a cure, but the cure can’t get to them," Haynes said.