Florida COVID vaccine Q&A: What we know, don’t know about federal pharmacy program

Ryan Gillespie, Orlando Sentinel
·2 min read

Details are scant so far on how the federal government will partner with major national retailers to ramp up vaccine distribution beginning next week.

While the Biden administration announced the partnership, including pharmacies at Walmart, Winn-Dixie and Publix stores in Florida, the companies haven’t released information about how many doses they’ll receive, when appointments will be available and which locations will be offering vaccinations.

Here are a list of questions the Orlando Sentinel has received, and what we know so far.

What is the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program?

The Biden administration announced the initiative this month, saying it would begin sending vaccine dosages to some of the nation’s best-known retailers, as a means of expanding the availability of the shots. In all, 21 pharmacy chains were selected, with a combined 40,000 locations nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is important to know that early on, when vaccine supply is still limited, many pharmacies may not have vaccine or may have very limited supply,” a post on the CDC’s website states.

How many doses are available?

The CDC said it intends to initially ship about 1 million dosages each week, divided among the retailers nationwide. The plan is for that number to increase as the nationwide supply does.

Which Florida pharmacies are participating?

That’s not entirely clear. So far Publix, Winn-Dixie and Walmart have confirmed they’ll be distributing the vaccines in Florida through the federal program, but it’s unclear which and how many locations will be involved in the effort. U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, said this week he wants CVS and Walgreens to participate as well, but it’s unclear if they will.

How much do the shots cost?

The vaccine will be free, the CDC said.

Who is eligible?

The federal program will adopt the eligibility requirements of each state, the CDC said. So in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has preached the state has a “senior’s first” plan, that means people over 65 years old, as well as front-line healthcare workers.

How can I sign up?

Walmart has said eligible people can sign up at Walmart.com/covidvaccine, and appointments will be made based on how dosages are received. Winn-Dixie hasn’t said yet how it will handle appointments. Publix, which had already been vaccinating Floridians through the state’s vaccine program, is providing updates on appointment availability at Publix.com/covid-vaccine/florida

When do shots begin?

The program is expected to begin issuing shots Feb. 11, though it’s unclear if that will happen with each retailer in each state.

Do you have questions about the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program? Email briefs@orlandosentinel.com and our reporters will try to answer as many questions as they can. Please check back later as this post will be updated.