COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday became available in Southwest Florida Publix pharmacies.
Gov. Ron DeSantis at a Naples press conference announced 16 Public pharmacies will now administer the vaccines through appointment visits. He said each location will have the capacity to inoculate between 100 and 125 patients each day.
“We think this is a good way to get this into communities for our seniors,” DeSantis said.
Earlier this month DeSantis announced the first Publix pharmacies that would offer vaccines at 22 stores in Central Florida. As of Wednesday morning, there were 105 Publix pharmacies with the vaccine.
Appointments must be set up through Publix’s dedicated web page for vaccine reservations.
DeSantis acknowledged complaints about web users having difficulty booking vaccine reservations, but said that’s partly because of high demand for shots.
“This is like the new iPhone 10 in demand,” he said.
Almost immediately after DeSantis made his announcement, spots were filling up, which the Governor said is to be expected.
“It’s not full yet, but they’re throttling,” he explained. “There’s a lot of demand, and so they’re trying to get it so that we have a little bit of a bottleneck.”
He addressed the logistical challenge and demands on servers simply handling the increase in traffic.
“You know, when some of these things first get announced,” he said. “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, so you’ve got to throttle. So what they’re doing is absolutely the right thing.”
DeSantis made his announcement behind a placard advertising the Seniors First policy in Florida, skipping essential workers in terms of who has access to the vaccine and making it available to all seniors age 65 and older.
That means most clerks at Publix can’t receive the vaccine yet even as the store sees reservations book up at record pace.
DeSantis again noted the Centers for Disease Control have followed Florida’s lead in placing a priority of senior inoculations. But he also noted Florida has a particularly high need to take care of its senior population.
“We have a higher percentage of elderly population than in any other state,” he said. “Certainly as far as any of the big states, we are way ahead.”
For now, the only Southwest Florida Publix locations offering the vaccine will be in Collier County. DeSantis said the state continues to work with other counties like Lee County in hopes of making the vaccine available at pharmacies there as well.
But he said the first counties where vaccines have been distributed through Publix have been places where there was not as robust a network of hospitals serving the region.