Hey Gov. DeSantis, why so cagey with COVID vaccine details? | Editorial

Editorial Board, Tampa Bay Times
·3 min read

Good morning, governor.

We see that you are taking flak for not having a detailed plan for rolling out more COVID-19 vaccinations. Your “no-plan is a good plan” mantra isn’t playing well in some circles, though in your defense those circles are densely populated with people who would criticize you no matter what you did. We’re on board with keeping the distribution plan simple. No need for an overly complex blueprint that will inevitably have to be ripped up every week.

But do you have to be so cagey with every scrap of information about your plan? This isn’t spycraft. Giving Floridians a basic understanding of who comes next in the vaccination queue won’t somehow give the virus a leg up, like spilling the details of the D-Day invasion. This isn’t poker where deception is paramount. Show Floridians a few of your cards. They can handle it.

We supported your idea of prioritizing frontline health care workers and seniors. As you know, older residents have suffered an overwhelming number of COVID deaths. To cut down on the initial rush, we would have started with people over 75 years old, but we get the reasoning behind your decision to begin with 65 and up. “Seniors first” is an easy strategy to understand, and in a state with 4.5 million of them it doesn’t hurt politically either. When the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, researchers may find that age shouldn’t have been the primary priority. But with the information available now, the simple approach is hard to fault.

The rollout hasn’t been perfect. In December, your vague announcements about who would get the vaccines confused some health care leaders, elected officials and regular Floridians. It doesn’t help that your communications office too often acts like a black hole, where questions go to never be answered. More recently, you criticized President Joe Biden’s idea of creating more vaccination sites, before rightly coming around to the idea. And the web-based systems for signing up for vaccination appointments have left a lot of seniors screaming for mercy. Of course, we and many others also beat you up recently for selecting two wealthy and predominantly white Manatee County ZIP codes to distribute an “extra” 3,000 vaccinations.

But Florida doesn’t appear any worse off than many states when measuring the percentage of residents who have received vaccinations. The main bottleneck has been the supply of vaccines, something largely outside of a governor’s control. All the more reason for you to dole out a few more details. Lately, you have indicated that teachers and law enforcement over the age of 50 could be next, but even then you couched it with “probably” and “I think.” On Thursday, you said the state will lower the age of eligibility for shots “sometime in March.” You didn’t say what the new age might be — 60? 55? Again, we don’t need a 100-page treatise on where and how the state plans to distribute the vaccine over the next few months. But give us more than just dribs and drabs.

A little more communication will allay fears and quell anxiety by helping Floridians determine where they fall on the schedule. Most residents are willing to wait their turn. They understand there isn’t enough vaccine to go around yet, and they don’t blame you for that. But you can help them by being more forthcoming, by treating your plan as less of a secret. You’ve said that when your turn comes you will get the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson shot. We’d like to know a few more details about the rest of us.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.