Florida is partnering with Publix to offer coronavirus vaccines to the state’s elderly population in three counties.
People 65 years old and older can sign up online to receive the vaccine at 22 Publix pharmacies in Citrus, Hernando and Marion counties, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday.
“Of all the things we’ve done, this Publix announcement I think is one of the most exciting because of the potential convenience for seniors, but then the potential for this to be a major force multiplier throughout the state of Florida,” the Governor said.
About 15,000 vaccines will be available at pharmacies in those three locations, according to Publix. Each store can schedule 120 vaccinations per day, while supplies last, beginning Thursday.
“We’re preparing to make appointments through our online scheduling system while supplies permit, and to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible individuals,” according to the store’s website, which encourages people to return later for more details.
The vaccines will be free for everyone. Customers with insurance should bring their insurance card, and those without insurance will need to provide a driver’s license or Social Security number.
“It’s our privilege to work with Governor DeSantis as a distributor of this important vaccine. We’re grateful to play a role in helping to protect the health and well-being of people at risk of serious complications from the coronavirus,” said Publix Vice President of Pharmacy Dain Rusk. “We look forward to a time when everyone who wants a vaccination is able to receive one.”
The announcement comes the day after DeSantis received national scrutiny over the state’s handling of the vaccine rollout. In Miami Monday, he entered into a testy exchange during a press conference with a CNN reporter regarding long lines and seniors camping over night to receive a vaccine.
But the Governor’s Office did not give prior notice before Tuesday’s event at a Publix in Ocala, and few reporters were present. Normally the Governor’s press office emails reporters an hour before new conferences, but the only broad announcement was a tweet from his official Twitter account linking to the live feed, which was already rolling.
“Pooling was required due to social distancing requirements at the business location hosting the announcement,” according to a statement from a spokesperson for the Governor. “There has been no change in our press office protocols.”
CNN reporter Rosa Flores pressed DeSantis Monday on whether there was a plan from the state to ensure an orderly vaccine rollout. Long lines in places like Lee County meant some people waited in line overnight to receive the vaccine.
“The state is not dictating to hospitals, we’re not dictating to Carlos Migoya how he runs his operation here. That would be a total disaster,” DeSantis said Monday. “These guys are much more competent to be able to deliver health care services than a state government could ever be.”
He rephrased that Tuesday, noting that every county health department and their interactions with hospitals are different. Therefore, he said the state’s response would not be a “one-size-fits-all approach.”
“Understand, there’s going to be more demand than they’re going to be able to accommodate at first,” DeSantis said. “It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get in. This is kind of the first inning. You don’t get in this time, try the next day and the next day. As we get more vaccine, there’s going to be even more opportunities to be able to get it.”
Find the list of locations offering the COVID-19 vaccine here: www.publix.com/covidvaccine.