Publix COVID vaccine distribution expands into Palm Beach County, but DeSantis remains mum on new strain

Gov. Ron DeSantis in Jupiter on Jan. 19, 2021, announcing expansion of COVID vaccine through Publix pharmacies in Palm Beach County. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded COVID-19 vaccine distribution to people aged 65 and above through Publix pharmacies to a large county for the first time Tuesday, enlisting all of the 67 Publix stores in Palm Beach County.

The move extends the program to 181 Publix pharmacies in 15 counties, including a planned expansion into seven Publix stores in Martin and two in Monroe counties, the governor said during a news conference in Jupiter. Distribution is by appointment only.

“This is the first really large county that we’re doing with a large senior population,” DeSantis said.

He was not asked, and did not volunteer any information, about the new, so-called B.1.1.7 variant cases, involving a mutation that renders the coronarvirus more easily communicable.

Florida has 46 cases involving this strain, more than any other state, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it has gone virtually unmentioned by state leaders including the governor.

Neither did the governor address the inauguration of Democrat Joe Biden as president on Wednesday, President Trump’s plans to skip the ceremonies and stage his own rally, or the tightened security at the Florida Capitol over the weekend in light of FBI warnings of potential violent protests (that didn’t eventuate).

Biden has promised to administer 100 million doses of vaccine during his first 100 days in office. The Trump administration has been criticized for slowness in moving vaccine out to the public.

In Palm Beach County, stores will begin taking reservations on its web site on Wednesday with the first shots administered on Thursday, he said.

The state also has been distributing vaccine through hospitals, county public health units, drive-through sites, and churches. DeSantis has cast the Publix program as a way to administer vaccine to seniors in mid-sized counties lacking large medical facilities.

Each of Florida’s 67 counties has at least one site, the governor said.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.