Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has threatened to remove a COVID-19 vaccination effort from a county entirely after residents noted the shots were going almost exclusively to wealthy, white citizens.

DeSantis says he’s just trying to serve the greatest concentration of senior residents, but the move provoked an outcry from community members accusing him of compromising the distribution process, The Washington Post reports.

The pop-up clinic set up in Manatee County restricted vaccine distribution to people in two zip codes, 34202 and 34211, which contain some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the county. The Bradenton Herald reports the clinic was set up with help from developer and DeSantis campaign donor Rex Jensen in conjunction with county commission chair Vanessa Baugh.

Baugh struck a deal between Jensen and the state government, allowing the state to use Jensen’s property to distribute doses well beyond the standard allotment for the area. 

Those doses, however, would go only to people that fell mostly within Baugh’s district.

“You’re taking the whitest demographic and richest demographic in Manatee County and putting them before everyone else,” county commissioner Misty Servia said.

The county commission itself was apparently unaware of the restrictions, responding with surprise and anger when they learned their constituents wouldn’t have access. The wealthy area served saw only 8% of the county’s COVID-19 cases.

“What about the rest of the county? I’m shocked that we would do this without even the board knowing about it,” commissioner Carol Whitmore said.

DeSantis maintains that the distribution was impartial. “If Manatee County doesn’t like us doing this, then we are totally fine with putting this in counties that want it,” he said. “We’re totally happy to do that.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has come under fire for his handling of the public health response to COVID-19 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has come under fire for his handling of the public health response to COVID-19 Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / JOE RAEDLE

Jensen mirrored that sentiment, saying that the county should be grateful to be receiving more vaccines.

“I mean, I wouldn’t be complaining,” he said. “I’d be thankful that we’re able to do it because, you know what, we didn’t need to do this at all.”

Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz said DeSantis "must stop playing politics with the vaccine distribution here in Florida,” CNN reports.

That’s likely a reference at least in part to the state's allegedly inaccurate COVID-19 case data. In December, armed police raided the home of data scientist Rebekah Jones, who says she was fired for refusing to manipulate numbers, subsequently starting her own COVID-19 case tracker website.