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HomeUncategorizedFact Check: Did Rep. Ingoglia influence Wellington Covid-19 Vaccine pick?

Fact Check: Did Rep. Ingoglia influence Wellington Covid-19 Vaccine pick?

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The Hernando Sun rates this claim as false. It was implied without evidence and following up with the Health Department Public Information Officer, she categorically denied the insinuation. 

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A recent article was published in the Tampa Bay Times on the Wellington at Seven Hills development being chosen to provide the COVID-19 vaccine and an article excerpt is below. Ms. Swanson, a 76 year old Spring Hill resident, spoke to the Tampa Bay Times reporter and is quoted in the excerpt.

“It (Wellington) is home to Andrew Ingoglia, father of state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, who previously headed up the Republican Party of Florida.

“Health department officials explain their choice by saying they have an established relationship with the 1,100-home community. But, Swanson wondered, “why should relationship count more than fairness?”

“Am I out of luck because I don’t have connections to the health department?” Swanson said.”

This is a complete excerpt from the article. No words were omitted and only the word “Wellington” in parentheses was added to explain what it referred to.

There does not appear to be a reason to include the fact that Blaise Ingoglia’s father is among the residents of the 1,100-home Wellington Community, except in an attempt to imply undue influence.

We contacted Ashley D. Thomas, Health Education Program Consultant and Public Information Officer of the Florida Department of Health in Hernando County. The questions and answers are below and the answers are in bold.

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1) When did Wellington contact you about dispensing the vaccine?   
Alongside additional planning efforts for Hernando County, the “Wellington” was among 37 PODs (Point of Dispensing) that the health department contacted simultaneously about the possibility of becoming a vaccination POD in December 2020.  The “Wellington” has been POD for over a decade. 

2) What other vaccination campaigns do you work with Wellington on?  
This is the first time we have opened a vaccination POD with the Wellington.  

3) How many doses are you providing to Wellington to dispense? 
719 is the expected number 

4) Can you explain how this roll out will work?  

As part of the Cities Readiness Initiative the Wellington has a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) which was helpful in organizing the vaccine clinics. Hernando County Fire/Rescue joined DOH-Hernando vaccinators to vaccinate residents.  

5) Are there plans to work with other communities on the dispensing of vaccines? 
Yes, we are currently working with Bethlehem Progressive Baptist Church (a 4-year POD partner) and a number of other churches who responded to the contact from the health department in December.  

6) Because the Tampa Bay Times implied it, did Blaise Ingoglia use his political influence to have Wellington chosen? 
Absolutely not. 

She also went on to explain that “We continue to vaccinate adults age 65 and up at our Spring Hill location, Monday-Friday by appointment only. “

The implication that Wellington was given preferential treatment by the Health Department is baseless. The Tampa Bay Times article provides an impression of wrongdoing without explicitly stating that this was the case and provides no evidence to back up such a suggestion. There was no need to mention that Blaise Ingoglia’s father lives at Wellington other than suggesting that this was the reason that Wellington was chosen as a Point of Dispensing. Then adding the wonderings of a Spring Hill resident that she is out of luck because she does not “have connections to the health department” further reinforced this idea of undue influence. The Health department spokeswoman responded that the implication was absolutely false. It appears that these additions to the article serve no other point than to attack an elected official. This is why we have declared the suggestion that the Wellington development was chosen as a vaccine Point of Dispensing because of Blaise Ingoglia’s influence as false.

The full article is available on the Tampa Bay Times website at https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2021/01/06/in-hernando-county-a-gated-community-gets-some-of-the-first-coronavirus-vaccine-doses/

Update: The Tampa Bay Time has since edited the article to remove the mention of Blaise Ingoglia and his father.

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