Florida is adding drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination sites at 26 Publix pharmacies in the Panhandle.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the public-private expansion Tuesday after the program’s initial success. On Thursday, 22 locations in Citrus, Hernando and Marion counties began offering shots to Floridians aged 65 and older.
“Publix has done a great job with this,” the Governor said in Nicevile. “We knew they would, because people love Publix in Florida.”
Six sites in Escambia County, five sites in Santa Rosa County and seven sites in Okaloosa County will begin offering 100 to 125 shots per day, by appointment only. In his second Publix run of the day, in Panama City Beach, he announced fives sites in Bay County and three sites in Walton County.
More initiatives with Publix will be coming soon, he teased.
“It’s just part of Florida’s DNA,” DeSantis said. “Everyone knows Publix.”
Beginning Wednesday, people can sign up at www.publix.com/covid-vaccine for appointments that begin Thursday.
“They have to do it this way,” he said. “We want it to be orderly. We want people to be able to get in and out.”
He visited new drive-thrus in Hernando County over the weekend. Customers there only had good things to say about the drive-thrus, he relayed.
“Publix was ready to go from the very beginning, and I think this is going to be really important as we continue our mission to put seniors first when it comes to these shots for the general public,” DeSantis said.
Publix donated $100,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis, the Governor’s political committee, last month.
Florida drew criticism over its decentralized vaccine rollout, which asked hospitals and county health departments to manage the distribution as they chose. In Lee County, that resulted in long lines as people aged 65 and older waited to get a shot.
As people struggle to reserve a spot in line for a vaccine, the Governor says “don’t be frustrated.”
“This is like the new iPhone times 10 in terms of just crushing demand,” he said. “I mean, it melts phone lines, it melts these reservations systems. Publix does a good job of managing that.”
The state is also facing scrutiny as snowbirds travel to Florida in the hopes of getting a shot. With many nearby states to the Panhandle, DeSantis warned that those sites are only for locals.
“You guys follow what your states’ doing. Here, this is going to be for folks who are in Florida,” he said. “We really want it for the Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa residents.”