OCALA, Fla. – People trying to get a COVID-19 vaccine at select Publix stores in Florida said all the appointments quickly filled Thursday morning.
Dave Barach considers himself one of the lucky ones. He said he got a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for 9:45 a.m. on Thursday at the Publix on Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala. He drove an hour from Lake County to get the shot.
“It was wonderful. Make the appointment, show up, done,” Barach said.
He lined up with others outside the store before being brought into the pharmacy area to get their shots.
Joanne, who did not want to share her last name, said she was the third appointment of the morning.
“We heard last night on the news and my husband and I put our alarm clock at 5 o’clock this morning and started going online. We got right on, got our appointment right away,” Joanne said.
She adds getting the shot is a huge relief.
“Tremendous, tremendous. I just sent a text to all of my friends, thumbs up. It’s emotional,” Joanne said.
Publix is participating in a pilot program. The Florida Department of Health gave the supermarket 15,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to administer at 22 select stores in Citrus, Hernando, and Marion counties.
The free shots are for people ages 65 and older.
A Publix spokesperson said the website to get an appointment opened at 6 a.m. on Thursday. The spokesperson didn’t know how long it took for all of the appointments on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to be booked.
Barach said the appointments were booked quickly.
“Within 5 minutes there were no doses left,” he said.
Sandi Smith said she tried all morning to get an appointment.
“I tried at 5, 5:30, 6, 6:30, 7, and then I thought it was going to be 8. Tried at 8, no nothing,” Smith said. “There was no way of telling what time they were going to open the site.”
Publix said people should keep checking their website, Publix.com/COVIDvaccine for more appointments as they get additional doses of the vaccine. It’s unknown when Publix will get more doses.
“That’s a little frustrating, but Publix has been my store for a long time, so I’ll stick with them. They do a lot of good, so we’ll just have to wait and see and see if maybe they come up with more vaccine,” Smith said.
Barach said he is grateful to get the shot, adding his wife has advanced cancer and this brings him peace of mind.
“It’s been a terrible year for everybody, and I feel lucky and privileged to have been able to inoculated relatively early in the scheme, particularly given my family situation,” Barach said.
Governor Ron DeSantis said he thinks the program will be successful. He hopes to expand the vaccinations to the 760 Publix pharmacies in Florida.
“We’re looking at potentially expanding that as a way to offer a vaccine to senior citizens in a way that’s convenient, and that’s easy for them,” DeSantis said.