PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. – All of Florida’s 67 counties now have at least one site offering a coronavirus vaccine.
Gov. Ron DeSantis emphasized the statement Tuesday, as he announced Publix was expanding its vaccination program.
Floridians 65 and older can now go to any Publix pharmacy in Palm Beach County to receive a coronavirus vaccine, expanding the opportunity for people to get the shot.
DeSantis made the announcement outside of a Publix grocery store in Jupiter, saying the decision to expand the vaccination program was easy after seeing the success in other, smaller counties across the state.
“My view is, look -- when things work you want to follow through that. If people are satisfied, you want to do it,” he said.
Palm Beach County is among those hardest hit by the virus, often coming after Miami-Dade and Broward Counties for the most cases. This will be the first large county where Publix pharmacies will be rolling out its vaccination program since partnering with the state. With all 67 grocery store locations offering appointments, the governor believes it has the potential to curb the spread of the virus.
“When I met with the folks in the county, they said that by their calculations 90% of all seniors in Palm Beach County live within a mile and a half of at least one Publix,” he said. “That’s 100 to 125 shots at each of those a day.”
Speaking just hours later in Cape Coral, DeSantis said starting Thursday, every Publix pharmacy in Lee County will offer the shots.
The program also expanded to seven Publix pharmacies in Martin County as well as locations in Islamorada and Key West, both of which are in Monroe County.
The governor spoke again in Brevard County on Tuesday afternoon, announcing that 22 Publix pharmacies there would also be administering shots starting on Thursday.
The governor said appointments will open for registration Wednesday, with shots being administered Thursday.
With the inclusion of Brevard County, the governor said 242 Publix pharmacies statewide would now be providing the vaccine to people 65 and older.
When asked for the potential to expand the Publix program to other hard-hit counties, the governor said his focus was putting seniors first and making sure all Floridians had access to the shots.
“We initially just focused on some counties that had high senior populations, but maybe not as robust health systems as you would see in like a Miami-Dade or like in Orlando,” he said about expanding the vaccination partnership with Publix. “But even the rural counties have at least one place where you can get the vaccine.”
He said Publix is a “major force multiplier,” calling the partnership a powerful tool in the efforts to vaccinate Florida’s seniors but said he also plans to support vaccination efforts by continuing with sites at places of worship, drive-up sites and working with county health departments.
“We’ve had days where we’ve done over 80,000 shots in one day,” he said, adding the initial goal was 50,000.
The governor said he expects Florida to get more vaccine shipments beyond the 265,000 weekly doses between Pfizer and Moderna as the Food and Drug Administration is poised to grant emergency use authorization to Johnson & Johnson’s drug next month. If approved, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccination will require one shot, easing some of the pressure on vaccination operations.
With plans to gain access to the next vaccine approved for use, DeSantis said, for now, Florida will stay the course and increase access to the vaccine as best as possible.
“Florida put seniors first and now people are starting to follow what we’re doing,” he said. “I think it’s going to make a big difference... I think that’s going to save a lot of lives.”