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Rep. Crist calling for DOJ to investigate if DeSantis prioritized vaccine distribution sites for political gain

MANATEE, Fla. — Supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine are struggling to keep up with demand here in Tampa Bay and across the country.

Now there is growing concern by some that vaccination distribution sites are being placed in affluent communities, leaving other vulnerable populations left out.

COVID-19 vaccination community events are popping up around the Tampa Bay area.

Just last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a senior living community vaccination pod in Manatee County, but its highly selective location has been met with controversy.

“For this commissioner to say that she was going to limit it to these two zip codes that happen to be in the wealthiest part of Manatee County, that happens to be developed by a donor of the governor, it was disheartening,” said Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, District 70.

Congresswoman Michele Rayner-Goolsby represents District 70, which covers largely minority communities within Manatee.

According to the Florida Department of Health, 32,728 white people in Manatee have been vaccinated, compared to about 859 Black people.

“The coronavirus disproportionately affects Black and brown folks. A lot of our essential workers and front-line workers are Black and brown people, so it’s vitally important that we make sure they have equitable access,” said Rayner-Goolsby said.

Goolsby is working with the governor to get a vaccination site in her district.

However, Rep. Charlie Crist is now calling for the Department of Justice to investigate whether DeSantis is establishing distribution sites that benefit his political allies.

“We’re all suffering for it, so we all should be helped from it by our leaders by our governor in this instance. That’s not happening so I think an appropriate investigation is more than warranted, it’s essential,” Crist said.

ABC Action News is learning, however, that not everyone who lives in a senior living community that’s been selected, can get the vaccine.

Johnathan Klenk, 64, has pre-existing conditions and was told his community in Trinity only be giving the vaccine to those 65 and older.

“There’s a lot of people out there, whether they’re age one or 100, who are scared to death and I just think everybody has to be addressed openly, collectively and with care, empathy and optimism,” Klenk said.

ABC Action News will continue to press state leaders on the DOJ probe into the vaccination sites.

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