VERO BEACH, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday announced the expansion of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination effort, saying Publix supermarkets in Indian River and St. Lucie counties will be added to the list of sites offering the jabs.
DeSantis made the announcement outside a Publix in Vero Beach while touting the state’s success in distributing vaccines as quickly as possible.
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The governor said Florida is the first state in the country to report that 1 million seniors have received their first shot. DeSantis made a similar statement earlier in the week which he had to walk back because Florida had only vaccinated 840,000 seniors with their first shot.
“We’re hundreds of thousands ahead of the next state,” DeSantis said, later adding, “We are No. 1 in the U.S. for doses per capita, according to CDC data.”
In announcing the expansion of the Publix program, DeSantis said there are now 261 Publix stores offering the vaccine.
“We’re happy to announce we’re expanding the program to include eight Publix pharmacies in Indian River County and 11 Publix pharmacies in St. Lucie County,” he said.
Appointments at the 19 new locations can be made starting Wednesday morning and again on Friday, DeSantis said.
DeSantis, speaking at a podium holding a sign that said, “Seniors First,” said those 65 and older will continue to be the focus in Florida.
“Roughly 22% of all 65-plus in the state of Florida (have been vaccinated), and that is either first, tied for first or just second with West Virginia, (which) has done a great job,” he said. “We’re proud of that. We’re proud of putting seniors first. As soon as we get more vaccine doses, we’ll get it to more seniors.”
“We’re doing more than 266,000 shots a week, so we’ve asked for more of those doses,” said DeSantis, adding that several counties have also begun providing second doses of the vaccine.
DeSantis was asked about suggestions from the White House that Florida is holding back doses of the vaccine.
“The insinuation that Florida is underutilizing vaccines is totally disingenuous,” he said. “...Florida is averaging more than 300,000 first doses per week, but we are not going to divert second doses from our seniors. If the implication is that we should be giving doses away to other people, that’s not the way the FDA has prescribed the series.”
This morning I was asked to address recent comments from the White House about Florida’s vaccine allocation. Here is my statement ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/imwvT67sRo— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 26, 2021
He then reiterated that if Florida receives more doses, its sites are equipped to deliver more shots.
“We are at the mercy of what’s sent. So if they sent 500,000 first doses instead of 266,000, I can double the drive-thru sties, I can give more to hospitals, I can give more to Publix. The possibilities are endless,” the governor said.