Is it getting easier to get a vaccine appointment? Publix’s sign-up lasts twice as long

Lisa J. Huriash, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·2 min read

Many people eager for vaccine appointments say they finally have a fighting chance, now that pharmacies are receiving a large vaccine supply.

The scarcity of appointments saw signs of easing Wednesday when Publix’s vaccine appointments didn’t fill up instantly this time: Wednesday’s sign-up lasted twice as long as before, taking about three hours to fill 53,000 appointments across Florida.

The grocery giant offered its largest sign-up with this week’s start of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which broadened the vaccine distribution across the U.S. Publix almost doubled the number of counties where it’s distributing the vaccine in Florida, expanding to 593 stores in 41 of the state’s 67 counties.

“There were more counties on the list that weren’t there before,” said Karen Keeter, of Atlanta, whose family managed to schedule an appointment for her father’s girlfriend in Sarasota after three failed tries.

Keeter recruited her siblings to help, and a relative finally snagged her a spot. “We weren’t going to give up,” she said. “Mission accomplished.”

Many saw the new infusion of vaccine supply, and the larger number of appointments available, as a sign of progress. Broward Mayor Steve Geller estimates every senior in the county who wants a vaccine should have access to their first shot by late March “at the rate we’re going” — and the general population will get their turn this summer.

“I have more than a glimmer of hope,” Geller said. “I think our problems have been entirely linked to lack of vaccine.”

While there are signs of progress, many still will face some frustration from trying to get vaccinated. “Seniors are understandably going to remain stressed until the shots are in their arm ... and they go home,” Geller said. “Until then, I think they are going to understandably remain concerned.”

Publix’s next appointment sign-up will be 7 a.m. Friday, offering it through its website, www.publix.com/covid-vaccine/florida

Winn-Dixie and Walmart also have kicked off their plans to administer the vaccine across Florida.

There are 10 Walmart locations participating in Broward and two in Miami-Dade County that opened sign-ups Wednesday. People may sign-up through Walmart.com/COVIDvaccine.

Walmart’s scheduling system faced technical problems Wednesday after a surge of appointments, but that shouldn’t delay the vaccine start date, which is scheduled for Friday, a Walmart spokeswoman said. The supermarket giant is expected to receive the vaccines Thursday, she said.

Although Winn-Dixie pharmacies are participating in Florida, they are not currently offering the vaccine in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Also participating is a Fresco y Más in Miami, a supermarket run by Southeastern Grocers Inc., the parent company of Winn-Dixie.