Publix makes changes before reopening COVID-19 vaccination appointment portal

47,000 slots filled in about 80 minutes

Before its portal reopened Friday morning, Publix made some changes to its COVID-19 vaccination appointment system, with a goal of making the experience better for patrons.

Before its portal reopened Friday morning, Publix made some changes to its COVID-19 vaccination appointment system, with a goal of making the experience better for patrons.

Normally, Publix would open its portal at 6 a.m. but that time was pushed back one hour to 7 a.m. Logging onto the website before that will not improve the chances of securing a slot, so residents are encouraged to wait until then.

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Publix director of communications Maria Brous said there were 47,000 appointments available Friday morning. The slots were filled within 80 minutes.

For those booking appointments, there were some changes made to help users distinguish between the waiting page and the booking page.

Since the system can only host a limited amount of traffic, certain users are directed to a booking page to make an appointment when the portal opens and thousands more are sent to a waiting page.

“Some customers have been confused by this experience,” Brous wrote in an email. “Customers will now have a very clear visual at the top of their screen indicating they are waiting. The page will continue to refresh automatically every minute. If room in the digital reservation system becomes available, the webpage will transition to the booking page, and customers will be directed to click a button to book an appointment.”

Evelyn Castro logged on to the portal on Friday morning. She said she’s been trying to get a vaccine appointment for her 65-year-old mother who battled pancreatic cancer and remains at high-risk.

“I got up early, before 7 a.m. and I went on the website and just waited for the registration to open and it opened and I saw it refresh and refresh and nothing,” Castro said.

Castro noticed some of the new changes Publix made on its website but she was unable to book an appointment on Friday.

“It was helpful the only thing is you feel like you have no control like you can’t really, you can’t interact. You’re just waiting for a machine to hopefully pick you and that feels a little bit frustrating,” she said.

Another new feature introduced Friday was that users were notified when the reservations were fully booked so they know to try again another day.

“As opposed to waiting without the ability to book an appointment, those who receive this notification can carry on with their morning activities. There is more demand for the vaccine than available supply, and we understand that’s frustrating. There will be more scheduling opportunities and we encourage those who don’t get an appointment to check back for the next opportunity,” Brous said.

Last time the portal opened on Wednesday, appointments in Brevard, Volusia, Flagler and Marion counties were booked in less than 90 minutes.

Stores in 21 counties across the state are offering the coveted shots to full-time and part-time residents 65 and older and health care personnel with direct patient contact.

Appointments are required and they can be made online here.