PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Florida’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution partnership with the supermarket chain Publix is coming to four more counties: St. Johns, Flagler, Volusia and Collier counties.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the expansion of vaccine distribution during a morning news conference at the Publix in Ponte Vedra Beach. It adds to the existing program that includes Hernando, Citrus, and Marion Counties and four northwest Florida counties.
There are 14 Publix locations in St. Johns County and four in Flagler County. Click for full list of stores.
Under the program, each participating Publix stores can vaccinate around 125 people per day. In order to make an appointment, you must be 65 or older and be a Florida resident. DeSantis said appointments would open Wednesday for shots beginning Thursday. Here’s the link to Publix appointment registration system.
On Wednesday night, Publix posted on Facebook: “All available COVID-19 vaccine appointments at Publix Pharmacy Florida locations have been claimed. Additional appointments will be announced as we receive more inventory. Check www.publix.com/covid-vaccine for the latest information.”
DeSantis said he chose Publix because the chain demonstrated it would be able to act quickly and has the infrastructure already in place. There is no cost for the vaccine, although appointments are required and customers are asked to bring their insurance card in addition to a driver’s license or Social Security number.
“There’s more demand (for this) than the new iPhone,” DeSantis said. “Publix has done a great job with this. But because they’ve done such a good job, we are now expanding the footprint.”
Prior to Wednesday, there 48 Publix locations are already vaccinating patrons. With the additional four counties, shots will be available at 66 more stores on Thursday.
“Our ability to provide these vaccinations to Florida’s 65-and-older population is a privilege,” Publix CEO Todd Jones said in a statement. “We are grateful to Gov. DeSantis for his willingness to work with us to serve our communities.”
Asked if the program will expand to Jacksonville stores, DeSantis said not right away due to the limited supply of vaccines
“Believe me, as we get more vaccine, you want it to be in some other counties, you’ll do it,” DeSantis said. “Duval has a strong hospital system. You’ve got many hospitals. A lot of them have gotten doses. I know people who have gotten shots at a bunch of these different places. Some of the other counties that we’ve gone to, a bit more medium-size (with) heavy senior populations -- we saw a gap there that we could really get the shots up right now.”
The St. Johns County Health Department only received 500 doses this week. Appointments to receive those shots will open at 9 a.m. Thursday.
As of Wednesday morning, Florida’s Department of Health reported that nearly 400,000 of 707,478 vaccinations administered in the state so far have gone to people 65 or older, although there is no breakdown of how many of those were residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Those vaccinations are being administered on-site through a separate program involving a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens.
DeSantis said 4.4 million Floridians are aged 65 and above and knows there is more demand than supply.
“I didn’t ever think I would ever see the day that we have such problems trying to stay alive,” St. Johns County resident Hugo Mickler said. “My 94-year-old aunt is in the hospital right now with COVID-19 in St. Augustine.”