Recent reporting on Publix and preferential treatment to the grocery chain are false, according to Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz.
The DEM director, who plays a leading role in the state’s coronavirus response and vaccine rollout, first tweeted his defense of Publix in response to a Miami Herald article after an extensive interview with him. Publix, which is a state leader for distributing vaccines, makes it own rules, the Herald article claims.
On Thursday, Moskowitz’s communications team sent out an email “setting the record straight” regarding Publix.
“Allegations that Publix is an outlier in how it administers and transfers vaccine or receives preferential treatment are false,” Moskowitz said.
Publix donated $100,000 to Friends of Ron DeSantis, the Governor’s political committee, in December. The next month, the Governor began announcing the first of hundreds of Publix pharmacy locations that would begin offering shots.
But there’s no correlation between the two, according to Moskowitz.
“Suggestions that Publix is receiving vaccine because of political favoritism are unfounded and utter nonsense,” he said. “When the vaccine first arrived in Florida, we reached out to all pharmacies and Publix was the only one who at the time could execute on the mission.”
That was before the federal pharmacy program kicked in to bring vaccines to pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Winn-Dixie.
All vaccine providers, including pharmacies and hospitals, must agree to the state’s terms for distributing vaccines.
The Herald on Tuesday published an article titled “Publix makes its own vaccine distribution plan. Officials don’t know where shots will go.” Reporting in the piece said the state had shipped 70,000 doses a week to Publix’s central distribution hub in Lakeland, but that the government was not kept abreast on where doses ended up from there.
Moskowitz pushed back directly against that claim. Like other distributors, Publix enters the number of doses they administer daily, and the Department of Health regularly reviews that data.
Moreover, the state “provides input” on where Publix should open vaccine sites, similar to the state’s other partners.
“The state knows exactly where shots are administered,” Moskowitz said.
Publix’s corporate office offered strong words in response to the Herald’s reporting.
“From the beginning of the vaccination rollout at Publix pharmacies, Publix has been in direct and constant contact with the state, requesting direction and frequently detailing vaccination plans at our stores,” reads a statement from the Lakeland-based grocery chain.
Moskowitz also pushed back against narratives that the state was giving preferential treatment to wealthy and White communities, calling those “misleading and wrong.”
Moskowitz, who left the State House to join the DeSantis administration, is a registered Democrat, making him a unique spokesman for the Republican administration.
Florida is also under fire for where the state and local governments decided to set up vaccination sites. That stems from other reporting from the Herald that Ocean Reef, a wealthy enclave in the Keys, received vaccines before much of the state. That community was also a community of donors, according to the Herald.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone statewide office holder who is a Democrat, during a press conference Thursday called the link between vaccines and donations the latest in an apparent pattern. She called on the FBI to investigate the Governor’s vaccine plan.