Seniors living in Citrus, Hernando and Marion counties will be able to get vaccinated for COVID-19 while shopping at Publix, under an agreement Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration reached with the Florida-based supermarket chain.
The state is directing 15,000 vaccine doses to 22 Publix stores across the three Central Florida counties as the administration works to increase the number of locations where people age 65 and older can go to receive inoculations.
DeSantis’ announcement Tuesday about the Publix agreement comes amid a wave of criticism about the governor’s handling of the vaccine rollout.
The supermarket chain will begin taking online appointments for the vaccinations on Thursday, according to a press release issued by DeSantis’ office. The first vaccinations will be administered on Friday.
“As you’re shopping for groceries, knock out your vaccine,” DeSantis said Tuesday at a Publix in Marion County, where the governor announced the agreement.
Three Publix locations in Citrus County will offer the vaccinations, as will 11 stores in Hernando County and eight stores in Marion County.
In Flagler County, 1,388 people had been vaccinated as of today, according to the state Department of Health, with all appointment slots scheduled through the end of the week filled within minutes of becoming available on Monday. The county had under 1,000 vaccines for people 65 and over.
Nationwide, 4,836,469 people had received the first dose of the Pfizer Inc. or the Moderna vaccine as of Tuesday morning, according to a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracking system.
A Florida Department of Health report shows that 289,773 people in Florida had been vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as of Tuesday. The number includes 1,997 people who have received two doses of the vaccine, as recommended by the federal government.
The governor has attributed the slow start of vaccinations to the winter holidays but predicted that there will be an uptick in activity in January.
Holidays aside, the vaccination rollout has been hampered by days of long lines, jammed phone systems and overwhelmed websites as Florida seniors who, along with health care workers, were designated as eligible for vaccinations scrambled to get doses from county health departments and hospitals.
The problems have drawn unflattering national media attention and DeSantis sparred on Monday with a CNN reporter who asked questions about the issue.
DeSantis made the Publix announcement as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continues to mount. Florida health officials have recorded 1,392,123 infections in the state since the coronavirus first arrived in the state last year. More than 22,000 Florida residents have died of COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The agreement with the Publix supermarket chain, which operates pharmacies, underscores the DeSantis administration’s continued reliance on the private sector to help get shots into the arms of individuals who qualify for the vaccinations.
Initially, hospitals were told to inoculate their frontline health care workers, as well as frontline workers at nearby facilities.
On Dec. 23, DeSantis issued an executive order making the vaccine available to all health care workers as well as to people over the age of 65, which DeSantis on Tuesday acknowledged led to long lines as demand for vaccinations outpaced supply. Florida is home to roughly 4.4 million people age 65 and older.
“There was a natural crush that happened,” DeSantis said. “And I think as we continue, as more people get booked for appointments, there’s still going to be high demand, but I think it’ll get a little easier to navigate. The bottom line is being able to bring these vaccines to people, getting it so they have the ability to sign up (for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment) is very, very important. So we are just going to keep doing it. We’re going to keep expanding the opportunities for this.”
Publix is the first pharmacy the state has brought into its vaccination distribution efforts, though the federal government has inked agreements with CVS and Walgreens to provide vaccinations for residents and staff at long-term care facilities.
Cocoa pharmacist Dawn Butterfield, who is the owner of West Cocoa Pharmacy & Compounding, is disappointed that the governor didn’t look to independent pharmacies to help provide vaccinations.
Butterfield said that she has received a stream of phone calls from customers who don’t want to go to the hospital to get a COVID-19 vaccination. The alternative — the Brevard County Health Department — has run out of supply and is not taking any additional appointments or maintaining a waiting list for those who want the vaccine.
“Left out again,” Butterfield said in an email to The News Service of Florida, adding that it’s “ALWAYS the big corporations” that are chosen to work with the state.
–Christine Sexton, News Service of Florida
Vincent A. Liguori says
People of Flagler county it’s time to call the governor and request that he authorize Publix to distribute the vaccine in Flagler. Let’s work together to get as many vaccine providers as possible-CVS and Walgreen.
Rose Morrissey says
Demand is way higher than supply. Be patient, this only means about 650 vaccines have been sent to these Publix locations it will be gone before they open. Hope you don’t have to get groceries that day.
This virus has been around less than a year Florida is doing a great job compared to other states in vaccinations. Stay safe and be happy!
Palm Coast Citizen says
Thank you for saying this! Think of all the COVID-19 related jobs that public servants, businesses, leaders, retail workers, school teachers and support staff, health care workers, and more have had to change, improve, or add within a relatively short period of time. It’s been difficult, but many citizens have been meeting this challenge.
There are million dollar programs that had to be implemented in a matter of months; stores had to reconfigure their signages, checkout procedures, and layouts; even the county’s Senior Services had to pull in grants to disperse food to all of Flagler County participating Wickline Seniors with an army of mobile volunteers. Nonprofit agencies are attempting to launch programs and disperse federally funded assistance within all the guidelines in short periods of time. Small businesses have attempted admirable feats of creativity to restructure their services to keep their staff employed and provide their business to their customers. Teachers rolled out mobile education platforms in a matter of two months and schools launched mobile counseling, electronic device delivery, and other services–all stuff that should normally take at least a year to plan and prepare–within just one or two months.
When pressed with these incredible challenges, the outcome can be less than ideal in the short time frames required to implement these rapid changes, but we can find great comfort and pride when we choose to see how remarkable we are as a nation–how quickly we all worked to provide extraordinary services in such short periods of time.
I bet most of the appointments will be taken up very quickly by Publix employees from many stores who will make sure their family and friends get “help” signing up , The tv said each store would be able to give 122 shots daily. Hopefully other pharmicies, etc. will join in very soon so the crowds can be dispersed around, rather than everyone at the same place.
Oh DeSantis only tries to do something after several complaints have been made aware of his complete failures to the people of Florida.
He still does not offer a concrete plan for the whole State of Florida regarding receiving this vaccine in other counties. Similar to when so many people were filing unemployment because of the virus the state’s website crashed because it was so outdated thanks to his buddy Scott who both don’t go out of their ways to help those in need in Florida, but you can be sure they will want their votes when they are up for re-election.
It doesn’t work that way but they will finally realize that sooner or later.
DeSantis is a complete failure to the State of Florida and its health care workers, its senior citizens, teachers, and its privacy citizens.
J. Barry says
The vaccine clinics at Publix locations in Florida are rolling out smoothly.
Who do we need to contact in Palm Coast to get it started in this county?
Right On Mythoughts! DeSantis doesn’t “plan”, he only “reacts”.
I had a joke sent to me saying that Amazon could delivery the vaccine to our arms much faster and cheaper. . . not far off the mark. They had several moths to prepare for this roll out. . . they knew the vaccine would be available sooner or later, and they knew the Federal government wasn’t going to help. Yep. . . again, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.
Like Trump, Death Santis is playing to his base. People all over Florida are complaining of “preferential treatment” issues, even within the hospitals. Even in relatively well-off areas like Sarasota county, people are complaining that “it’s all about who you know.”