Villages residents angry over COVID-19 vaccine distribution

SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. — The Villages is Florida’s largest retirement community, and in an area where the median age of residents is 67, many of them qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine.

So when Gov. Ron DeSantis said those 65 and older would get priority in getting the vaccine, 75-year-old Kenneth Taub assumed they would be at the top of the list.

“When we heard the vaccines were coming into Florida, there was no question in my mind that the Villages would be number one on the list to get vaccines,” Taub said.

READ: Here’s where to find the COVID-19 vaccine in your county

Like so many other residents, Taub said when he went to register for the vaccine, he was told that there were no appointments available.

“What about the Villages? Why are they not getting vaccines?” Taub said.

In an email from the Sumter County Department of Health, 1,800 vaccines originally headed for the villages were instead sent to the University of Florida to help vaccinate health care workers there.

According to state records, as of Wednesday only 820 people had been vaccinated in Sumter County, one of three counties where the Villages is located.

There is hope, however. On Wednesday, DeSantis announced that the Florida Division of Emergency Management and Florida Department of Health would be partnering with Publix Supermarkets to establish COVID-19 vaccination sites in three counties including Marion County, of which the Villages is also a part of.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to increase vaccinations and put Florida’s seniors first, I’m pleased to announce this innovative partnership with Publix,” said DeSantis.

According to Jared Moskowitz, the director of FDEM, until more shipments of the vaccine can be distributed, the state will work to assist governments with coordinating vaccine distribution.

“We here at the division are working on propping up a system and a call center which we will roll out statewide next week to provide down to the local governments, should they choose that,” Moskowitz said.

Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.

Matt Reeser

Matt Reeser, WFTV.com

Matt Reeser joined WFTV in 1998 as a news photographer and has worked for television stations in Kentucky and West Virginia.