By CBSMiami.com Team

PINELLAS PARK (CBSMiami) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis addressed COVID-19 vaccine distribution while in Pinellas Park Thursday.

The governor was in the Mainlands of Tamarac, a neighborhood for those who are 65 and older.

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Governor DeSantis announced the opening of a new pop-up vaccination site. It will be there three days offering three-thousand shots to seniors 65 and older. Governor DeSantis said they will be given the Moderna vaccine and all appointments will be handled by Pinellas County.

DeSantis said statewide, 42-percent of the seniors living in Florida have received a COVID-19 vaccine dose and in Pinellas County, he said 35-percent of seniors received a shot.

The Governor also announced that next week they’re going to do an additional five-thousand doses at another new pop up site. He said the senior first strategy is what they’re going to do until every senior in Florida who wants a shot gets a shot.

On Wednesday, DeSantis came under fire for threatening to move a pop-up vaccination site in Manatee County set up in an affluent community, after he was confronted with allegations of political favoritism and preference for the wealthy.

Manatee County announced on Tuesday that Florida’s Division of Emergency Management would host a “pop-up” vaccination spot at Lakewood Ranch this week for 3,000 Manatee County residents, according to a statement from the county.

The vaccines, however, would be limited to people living in only two zip codes — 34202 and 34211.

DeSantis, however, defended the choice when confronted with the criticism at Wednesday’s news conference.

“It wasn’t a choice about zip codes, it was a choice about where a high concentration of seniors, where you could have communities provide the ability for them to go on (to get vaccinated),” he said.

He also pushed back at the suggestion that the choice was politically motivated, saying he didn’t “understand the accusation.”

Then he fired back at the county officials who had concerns with the choice.

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“If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it,” DeSantis said.  “We’re going to look to do more and more with the additional doses but anyone in Manatee … if they don’t want us doing it, then just tell us, and we’ll make sure that that that we send those doses to folks who want it,” he also repeated later in the news conference.

State Sen. Annette Taddeo, who represents District 40 in Miami-Dade County, believes the most recent choices for these vaccine pods follows a distinct pattern, She says they are all in counties which supported the governor in his election.

“We saw every single Publix in red areas get vaccines, but in blue areas we didn’t even have any Publix,” she said.

Miami-Dade, which is blue, has the most COVID cases in the state and the largest population. But Taddeo said it has disproportionately fewer doses.

Sen. Taddeo was outraged at the Governor’s veiled threat.

“I was appalled. Frankly, I was just sitting there going “what”!! What do you mean, you’re going to punish people because they’re critical,” she said. “Not only was he a bully, but he was inappropriate, because again he’s the governor for all the people and criticism is welcomed in a democracy.”

Other democrats piled on.

In a scathing statement, Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz said the governor “must stop playing politics with the vaccine distribution.”

“Threatening retribution and less vaccine access for communities that criticize the vaccine rollout for its problems is shameful and inhumane. Vaccine access is a life or death situation for so many Floridians, yet somehow Gov. DeSantis thinks it is OK to play favorites and punish anyone who criticizes him or his vaccine program,” he said. “This must stop. Floridians need a leader with empathy, not a politician who chooses politics over lives.”

It appears starting next week that Florida will start receiving an additional 41,000 doses of vaccine.

As for Wednesday’s news conference, Taddeo said there’s only one thing the governor should do.

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“He owes Manatee County an apology. He owes Miami-Dade County for not getting us our fair share as well,” she said.

CBSMiami.com Team