The Governor, in Ponte Vedra Beach, announced vaccines would be available at select supermarkets in St. Johns, Flagler, Volusia and Collier Counties.
Fourteen Publix locations in St. Johns County will give the shots, along with four in Flagler, 22 in Volusia, and 16 in Collier.
These are “counties a little more median size, with a lot of elderly people,” according to the Governor, making them ideal candidates for neighborhood access to the critical shots.
Those vaccinated must be at least 65 years of age, residents or staff of long-term care facilities, or health care workers with direct patient contact. But the focus of the campaign is on the elderly.
The messaging wasn’t new, with DeSantis delivering the same script he had in the Panhandle and the Villages in previous stops announcing the initiative in its first seven counties and 48 locations. Those stops also accentuated availability for seniors.
A total of 105 Publix pharmacies are participating so far. With 750 in the state, the Governor notes that “we’re not stopping,” and the program will expand as more vaccine comes out.
DeSantis said there was “more demand for the vaccine than the new iPhone,” but “when we’re doing tens of thousands of seniors a day, that softens demand.”
Nevertheless, Publix has throttled access to its sign-up portal because of the rush of people trying to reserve an appointment, of which there are only 125 per day per location. That is the right move, the Governor said during a follow-up stop in Naples.
“You know, when some of these things first get announced — I was talking to some I.T. guys — the pressure that comes on these sites is like a Russia-Chinese cyber attack combined because it’s just all at once and they just really hit it,” DeSantis said.
The Governor has continually contended seniors are the most at-risk and in need of direct mitigation strategies beyond those for the general population.
“We’ve led the way,” DeSantis said. “65 plus is where we need to focus it.”
At least 400,000 seniors in Florida have gotten vaccinated, a key plank of the DeSantis strategy in fighting COVID-19.
The collaboration with Publix expands access to vaccines for the novel coronavirus beyond hospitals and other institutional settings to the venerable Florida institution where, for now at least, vaccination is a pleasure.
But for DeSantis, who represented this area in Congress, the swing to the Sawgrass Publix was a homecoming for the Governor in one sense and a formalization of a partnership that once seemed unlikely.
Before being pressured to stop donating to him, the chain was one of the biggest supporters of DeSantis’ primary opponent, Adam Putnam. But times have changed, and Publix is in DeSantis’ corner, both politically and in the realm of vaccinations.
And DeSantis, who has been fulsome in appreciation for the chain in previous stops on this junket, continued in the same vein in St. Johns County.
“Publix is in every community,” DeSantis said, noting his own ties to the location.
“We bought an awful lot of diapers from this store right here,” the Governor said.
The Governor got applause at the beginning and the end of the event, and reporters’ questions did not veer from the advertised topic, meaning that DeSantis’ homecoming went about as well as it could.