OCALA, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis revealed some Publix grocery store pharmacies will offer the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible groups during an impromptu news conference last week.
It didn’t take long for people to jump at the opportunity. Officials said that all of the available appointments have been reserved.
Once Publix receives additional doses, officials said more appointments will be made available.
DeSantis announced changes to the state’s vaccine distribution plan on Monday, saying hospitals must use their shots as soon as possible and partnering with worship centers to help distribute the vaccine. The governor didn’t mention Publix during two news conference Monday but on Tuesday, DeSantis made the announcement from a Publix supermarket in Ocala.
According to Publix.com a limited number of vaccines are “on the way to select Publix pharmacies in Citrus, Hernando and Marion counties.”
Vaccines will be available by appointment while supplies last, according to the supermarket.
According to the website, 11 Marion county locations, eight Hernando County stores and three Citrus County locations will offer the shots.
Publix Vice President of Pharmacy Dain Rusk said each store will vaccinate about 120 people per day. People can begin making appointments Thursday, Jan. 7. The grocery store chain later announced shots will begin the same day.
“Tomorrow morning when customers wake up they can go online, and they can start scheduling appointments,” Publix Director of Communications Maria Brous said Wednesday. “They will be scheduled for Thursday, Friday, Saturday in 5-minute increments. So customers will have a selection beginning at 9:30, they can select appointment times every 5 minutes and we’ll do that for the first three days.”
More updates on availability and the appointment registration system can be found at publix.com/COVIDvaccine. The link to reserve a spot will go live Thursday morning, according to Brous.
Brous did not say what time the website for appointment would go live but several people News 6 spoke to began booking them around 6 a.m. The first day of appointments on Thursday were quickly filled.
“All the teams are on standby. We have lots of folks, we have additional help. Everyone is committed to making this process as smooth as possible,” Brous said. “It’s technology. There are things that we’re trying to put in to deter any opportunities from happening, but just like anything else we have teams on standby to help and execute to the best of our ability.”
All vaccines are free but customers are asked to bring proof of insurance if they have it and must bring a photo ID.
“We want to avoid having a crush of people just show up and waiting in line all day and so, please go to the website and make the appointment,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said if the pilot program goes well Publix could offer vaccines at more of its locations around the state. Publix operates 756 pharmacies throughout Florida.
“We selected these three counties and these 22 pharmacies, but I’ve made clear to Publix that, if we’re able to do this, if it’s efficient, if people have a good response to it, you know, my goal would be to work with them and all their pharmacies,” DeSantis said.
The governor said he asked Publix to help with the vaccine effort and the company “stepped up” without hesitation.
“It’s our privilege to work with Governor DeSantis as a distributor of this important vaccine. We’re grateful to play a role in helping to protect the health and well-being of people at risk of serious complications from the coronavirus,” Rusk said in a statement. “We look forward to a time when everyone who wants a vaccination is able to receive one.”
The grocery store chain is also working with six other states where it operates to provide vaccines. The Florida-based chain also operates in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
As of Tuesday, Florida was vaccinating only three priority groups: Health care workers, long-term care facility staff and residents and people 65 or older. The health care group includes EMTs, paramedics and non-hospital health care workers as well as Department of Health staff.
All Florida vaccine sites are open to anyone in the priority groups regardless of state or county residency. Residents will need to return to receive their second shot 21 or 28 days after their first dose, depending on which vaccine they receive, Moderna or Pfizer.
The Publix locations in Marion County will offer an alternative in Central Florida after the county Department of Health received more than 50,000 vaccine appointment requests this week for its first doses for seniors.
The county health department opened up reservations on Dec. 28 but after receiving more than 50,000 requests, closed its application portal.
“We’re capping the number of people included in this first round of signups to allow for staff to work through the current list of registrants and get them fully vaccinated,” Department of Health in Marion County Administrator Mark Lander said. “We will re-open registration once the first group of 50,000 registrants completes their vaccinations.”
DOH staff are working to call all people who request appointments, which could take weeks.
Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn said that he is thankful his city will be included in the initial rollout.
“I’m glad he chose Ocala to do it, so my hats to the governor,” Guinn said.
Guinn also said that seniors in Ocala have been asking him when they will be able to receive a vaccine.
“I’m 66. People have been calling me and say, when can I get my shot? You know, and they would ask, is Publix doing it?”
Below is a full list of the stores offering vaccines by appointment beginning Jan. 8.
|Crystal Springs Shopping Center||6760 W. Gulf to Lake Highway||Crystal River, Fla.|
|Shoppes of Sugarmill Woods||9525 S. Suncoast Blvd.||Homosassa, Fla.|
|Publix Plaza Inverness||1012 W. Main Street||Inverness, Fla.|
|Brooksville Square||19390 Cortez Blvd.||Brooksville, Fla.|
|Shoppes of Citrus Hills||2685 N. Forest Ridge Blvd.||Hernando, Fla.|
|Shoppes at Avalon||13455 County Line Road||Spring Hill, Fla.|
|Publix at Seven Hills||160 Mariner Blvd.||Spring Hill, Fla.|
|Lakewood Plaza||4365 Commercial Way||Spring Hill, Fla.|
|Publix at Barclay||14371 Spring Hill Drive||Spring Hill, Fla.|
|Mariner Commons||4158 Mariner Blvd.||Spring Hill, Fla.|
|The Shoppes at Glen Lakes||9595 Commercial Way||Weeki Wachee, Fla.|
|Belleview Commons||10135 SE US Hwy. 441||Belleview, Fla.|
|Rainbow Square Shopping Center||11352 N. Williams Street, Suite 400||Dunnellon, Fla.|
|Forty East Shopping Center||3450 E. Silver Springs Blvd.||Ocala, Fla.|
|Canopy Oak Center||8075 SW Highway 200, Unit 111Ocala, Fla.||Ocala, Fla.|
|Park View Commons||3035 SE Maricamp RoadOcala, Fla.||Ocala, Fla.|
|The Shops at Foxwood||2765 NW 49th Avenue, Suite 301||Ocala, Fla.|
|Grand Oaks Town Center||2575 SW 42nd Street, Suite 100||Ocala, Fla.|
|Pearl Britain Plaza||2647 NE 35th StreetOcala, Fla.||Ocala, Fla.|
|Churchill Square||303 SE 17th StreetOcala, Fla.||Ocala, Fla.|
|Heather Island Plaza||7578 SE Maricamp Road, Suite 100||Ocala, Fla.|
|Heath Brook Commons||5400 SW College Road, Suite 200||Ocala, Fla.|