BOCA RATON, Fla. – As of Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that there are 350 Publix stores around Florida that are offering the COVID-19 vaccine, but many say the stores aren’t anywhere near rural, low-income communities.
“I’m very happy that a handful of us were able to get vaccinated today,” Jaqui Glucksman, a healthcare worker, said.
About 500 doses of coronavirus vaccine were distributed in Pahokee in far-western Palm Beach County on Wednesday.
Former FSU and NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin, a Pahokee High School graduate, worked with the governor to bring vaccines to the area.
“This is home, always has been home, always will be, and it’s my job to make sure the people out here are taken care of,” Boldin said.
Vaccination sites in rural, underserved communities like Pahokee are critical. People are asking why other pharmacies aren’t getting access to the shots and saying that the closest Publix is 25 miles from them.
One man waiting for his shot at Pahokee said: “One thing I know and I’m gonna say it. I hope everybody’s listening. Publix ain’t going to be in minority areas.”
Many here, and throughout the state, have been critical of the governor’s decision to make Publix the primary pharmacy providing community vaccinations.
“Publix is not here, so our patients out here were going to have a difficult time,” Glucksman said.
The grocery chain is a major donor to the governor’s campaign. Records show that in December alone Publix contributed $100,000 to his PAC Friends of Ron DeSantis.
When he was asked about the connection, he responded: “Well, that’s not true. First of all, we use CVS and Walgreens to do the long-term care facilities,” DeSantis said.
The governor saying with the potential rollout of the federal pharmacy program, vaccinations could expand.
“Then you wouldn’t just be talking about Publix, you’d be talking about Winn Dixie you’d be talking about Walmart, which I think would be really, really good,” DeSantis said.
The governor chalked the lack of vaccine up to a supply issue, telling us that the point of using Publix initially was to get vaccines to the small and medium size counties that did not have strong hospital systems. He also said that the reason Miami-Dade and Broward county does not have distribution in Broward County is also a supply issue.