Top elected statewide leaders in Florida have gotten the COVID vaccine or plan to get the shots

By: - April 1, 2021 5:58 pm

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried received a COVID-19 shot at FAMU on April 1, 2021. Credit: Issac Morgan

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Thursday urged Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Florida Cabinet members who may not have received COVID-19 vaccines to do so publicly to gain public trust in shots and “show trust in science.”

Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine and streamed the event live on social media at Florida A&M University’s Al Lawson Gym and Multipurpose Center in Tallahassee.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican, did receive a shot this week, according to an email Thursday from a spokeswoman.

Devin Galetta, communications director at the Office of Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, told the Phoenix that “the CFO (Jimmy Patronis) plans to get his vaccine,” but is not sure when and where. Patronis also is a Republican.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that he plans to get the vaccine this week but unsure whether he’ll broadcast it publicly, as previously reported by the Phoenix. The governor, 42, is now part of the group to become eligible this week.

So far, Fried is the only elected statewide official to publicly receive the vaccine, according to a press release from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“This again is a showing of leadership. It is coming and showing that you are here supporting the vaccines and encouraging others to do so,” she said, adding that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris followed suit by getting vaccinated.

“This is how we show leadership and examples. If it is okay for us, it’s okay for everybody else,” she said.

States Newsroom, the Phoenix’s parent company, surveyed Washington, D.C. lawmakers from the 22 states where it has news operations and found that Republicans were being vaccinated at a little more than half the rate for Democrats.

Among the general population, Democrats far outstrip Republicans in planning to take the shots — 83 percent to 56 percent.

But in this case, DeSantis and Patronis are Republicans and plan to get the shots, and Moody has already been vaccinated.

Fried was joined by FAMU President Larry Robinson, who encouraged younger individuals who are eligible to get their doses, as the state expands eligibility to those 16 and up on Monday. “I expect to see long lines,” Robinson said.

Meanwhile, FAMU’s vaccination site is important to increase access to the vaccines for residents in underserved communities, Fried said. “We know unfortunately the inequality of vaccines,” she said.

In late February, Robinson underscored the importance of FAMU’s site to offer Black residents more access to COVID-19 shots in a letter to stakeholders.

“This vaccination site is central to our efforts to reach underserved communities at this crucial time. African Americans are more likely to contract and die of COVID-19 than other groups,” he wrote.

“We are also being vaccinated at far lower rates than the general population. This is a dangerous combination our community can ill afford.”

FAMU’s vaccination site is state-supported and operated by the Florida Division of Emergency Management, which has several other sites in various counties in the state.

“This has been a fantastic experience. It’s such an easy process,” Fried said. “It’s safe and reliable; it’s the only way we are going to get past this pandemic.”

Following seniors aged 65 and up, health care workers and other priority groups, the DeSantis administration has been expanding vaccine eligibility to younger people. And vaccines on Monday will become available to all adults age 16 and older. That includes young residents ages 16 and 17 who are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine only.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.