WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — Florida is scrambling to vaccinate as many people as possible as the Delta variant grips the state and hospitalizations continue to rise.
Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis is facing renewed criticism from the White House. Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying he's standing in the way of efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus.
"Our war is not on DeSantis. It is on the virus, which we are trying to knee cap and he does not seem to want to participate," Psaki said in a briefing Wednesday.
Gov. DeSantis, however, is holding firm, continuing to restrict local governments and school boards from implementing COVID restrictions, particularly mask and vaccine mandates. The governor has repeatedly said he's protecting personal freedom and the right of Floridians to choose what is best for themselves and their families.
"These interventions have failed time and time again throughout this pandemic," DeSantis said at an event last week. "The best defenses we have are the combination of the natural immunity and our seniors first vaccination efforts."
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Vaccination is a tentpole of Florida's COVID mitigation. The governor has repeatedly said the vaccine is safe and effective, often adding that is the best way to avoid serious complications from COVID.
The Florida Department of Health has recently started running PSAs, touting the vaccine's safety and encouraging Floridians to get the shot.
Despite those efforts, only roughly half of the state is fully vaccinated - which is roughly around the national average - but leaves a significant portion of the population unprotected against coronavirus.
"Lately, I've seen more patients willing to take the vaccine," said Dr. Isabel Bueno with The Medical Group of South Florida.
Dr. Bueno said the recent rise in Delta variant cases have propelled more patients to get vaccinated, something that is echoed by CDC data. However, she added that she still encounters a significant number of vaccine reluctant patients.
"I have a good percentage of patients who are very reluctant to get the vaccine," she said, adding that much of her time is now spent convincing reluctant patients to get the shot. "It's definitely a victory when I see that patient who was reluctant and they come back and they actually have the shot."