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Surprise: Another Anti-DeSantis Media Hit Job Falls Flat on Its Face

AP Photo/John Raoux

Late last week, lefty 'blue checkmark' types started excitedly sharing a Palm Peach Post story -- amplified by USA Today -- alleging that Florida has exaggerated its COVID vaccination rate among senior citizens.  Liberal writer Jonathan Chait declared that this revelation delivered the final blow against conservatives' argument that Gov. Ron DeSantis is hostile to the vaccine.  Let's pause right there for a moment.  As we've written previously, DeSantis actively and publicly encouraged vaccination, appearing on national television multiple times to encourage seniors to get the shot.  He was hit with anti-science attacks from the media for his correct decision to prioritize seniors.  He was also falsely attacked for teaming up with one of the best known brands in the state to facilitate effective vaccine distribution.  He himself got vaccinated and said so publicly, while making the case in favor of the vaccines in many public statements.

Did DeSantis become less vocal on this issue as the pandemic wore on?  Yes.  Did he give an awkward deflection of an answer when asked about his own booster status?  Yes.  Is his administration offering controversial but entirely scientifically defensible recommendations on the vaccine for healthy young children?  Yes. One can look at that full record and object to pieces of it, but it's unfair and inaccurate to declare it tantamount to an 'anti-vaccine' posture.  It's also worth noting that Florida sits above the national average on state-by-state vaccination rates and boasts the highest vax rate of any 2020 Trump-won state.  But are those numbers bogus?  Is Florida's achievement of high vaccinations among its vulnerable elderly population a mirage, boosted unethically or misleadingly by non-Florida-administered shots?  That's what the news story claims, asserting that the state over-counted vaccinations by 600,000, thanks to 'snowbirds' (who live out of state, but come to Florida for the winter).  Snowbirds were eligible for vaccine shots in Florida from the earliest days.  The report says that in more than 100 Florida zip codes, more than 100 percent of the population is listed as vaccinated.  Has Florida cooked the books?  Not exactly:


As you can see from the CDC data above, among seniors, this phenomenon is not only not limited to Florida -- it's found in a majority of states.  I noted that per the CDC numbers, Connecticut reports that 116 percent of its 65+ residents are at least partially vaxxed.  In Rhode Island, it's also 116 percent. DC? 114 percent.  Delaware's number is 111 percent.  New Jersey is at 108 percent. And yet Florida's 105 percent is being widely shared and framed as a scandal.  Gosh, I wonder why.  I reached out to the state's Department of Health for comment on the story and received this response from the agency's Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern, who called it a "nothing burger:"

A few [people] have brought up the same thing about the CDC, but it didn’t become a national celebration.  According to the LA Times, California has over 100 zip codes with 100% or more of their residents vaccinated. I doubt Jonathan Chait is going to take the time to call Gavin Newsom “anti-vax,” but there’s plenty of evidence to that point. The Department of Health gets vaccination data from Florida Shots. It is the responsibility of health care providers to put patient data into the system, and those data include the addresses of anyone that received a vaccine.


So California also has more than 100 zip codes in which more than 100 percent of residents are vaccinated?  Well, well, well.  Is that attributable to Ron DeSantis' lying chicanery, or whatever, too?  One can make the case that perhaps all of the 29 states facing this issue should try to clean up their numbers in order to make them more precise. One might also make the case that freedom of movement, second homes, etc. make this metric virtually impossible to perfectly track. One cannot, however, make the case that Florida's data is unique or scandalous in this regard. Many people will try to do so anyway, for reasons of partisan politics, not public health or transparency. In my recent interview with DeSantis, he addressed a critique of his COVID policies from California Gov. Gavin Newsom: 

How many people are moving from his state, fleeing to come to mine for freedom versus vice-versa? And I guarantee you we win in the net — in migration people are leaving California in numbers we’ve never seen because of his failed policies. And here’s what I’d say about the pandemic. If you look at the COVID mortality, people point out California has less per capita mortality than Florida, which is true — they’re also the second youngest state. So if you adjust by age, we’re one of the oldest states, we’ve very similar. However, this is where I think his leadership has been terrible. If you look at excess mortality, California’s had a higher percentage of excess mortality since COVID started than Florida — so that includes COVID, but it’s not limited...Those are lockdown deaths, absolutely. Those are deaths that his policies have caused, driving people to despair, drug addiction, lack of opportunities. And so there’s — people vote with their feet.


Here are the COVID-era 'excess death' rate statistics he references, which we referenced in a February analysis.  In the latest statewide survey, DeSantis enjoys a 59 percent overall approval rating among Floridians, and is (+22) on his handling of the pandemic.  On a political level, Charles C.W. Cooke argues that leftists largely have themselves to blame for DeSantis' heightened national profile:

The mercurial rise of Ron DeSantis is the Democrats’ fault.  I say this with gratitude, not regret. Absent some catastrophe, DeSantis is going to win a second term as governor of Florida this coming November and, after that, he has a fair shot of being president. This is partly because he has done an excellent job for his state. It’s also because he was unusually lucky in his enemies. Unable to help themselves, the Democrats have aided him at every stage. They still are...To DeSantis’ delight, his opponents have become addicted to stepping on rakes. In their desperation to take him down, the Florida Democratic Party has chased one absurd conspiracy theory after another. Its leading lights have sided with the disgraced fabulist Rebekah Jones, who falsely accused DeSantis of manipulating state COVID data; it has spread a debunked “60 Minutes” claim that there was something untoward about Florida using the state’s largest supermarket chain to distribute vaccines; it has pretended that the plan to make Florida the 23rd state with a state guard augurs something sinister; and it has advertised a link that does not exist between contracts awarded to the drug company, Regneron, and donations to DeSantis’ campaign...The results have been predictable. DeSantis now leads his likely opponents in every reputable statewide poll, has an approval rating of around 55%, and, when compared to the hysterical descriptions to which voters are treated, appears refreshingly normal to the average American.

I'll leave you with some actual anti-science, abusive COVID insanity, which would never fly in the Sunshine State:

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