DeSantis expands Publix coronavirus vaccines to 3 more counties

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Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the expansion of the Publix partnership to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to Palm Beach, Martin and Monroe counties.

Targeting those 65 and older at the grocery store chain’s pharmacies, all 67 Publix locations in Palm Beach County as well as seven in Martin and two in Monroe, in Islamorada and Key West, will begin taking reservations on Wednesday and begin giving shots on Thursday.

“This is the first really large county that we’re doing and it’s obviously a lot more stores,” DeSantis said from a Publix storefront in Jupiter. “We have confidence that this is a good system here and we know that they’ll put the doses to good use.”

DeSantis had rolled out access to the vaccines at Publix locations in 12 counties across the state previously. It started with a pilot program in Citrus, Hernando and Marion counties in which each location doled out 100-125 of the Moderna vaccine shots to those 65 and older who signed up through the Publix website.

He then announced expansion of the program to five Panhandle counties, then St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties in northeast Florida and Collier County in southwest Florida.

With Tuesday’s addition of 86 more locations, now 181 Publix locations out of more than 750 statewide are going to be distributing the vaccine.

DeSantis said he and Palm Beach County leaders identified that 90% of the county’s senior population lived within 1.5 miles of a Publix pharmacy, and since the county is one of the highest in the state in terms of senior population, that the expansion made sense.

“The response has been uniformly positive ... because it’s convenient,” he said. “Not every senior is going to drive halfway across town or across the county to go to a drive-through site. They need something that’s more convenient.”

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To date, the state has given the first shot of the vaccine to almost 700,000 seniors, and Florida has been getting around 265,000 shots each week from the federal government.

DeSantis said he’s optimistic the supply will increase as production increases, and also the federal government will consider upping the supply to Florida since 21% of the state is 65 and older.

He also brought up the in-progress Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a one shot vaccine that has yet to be approved, but could mean potentially a much bigger supply to all the states by the end of February.

At that point, he would expect he said to expand the shot program beyond his priority of senior citizens to younger recipients.