A common trait of the counties that are part of Florida’s growing COVID-19 vaccination partnership with the Publix supermarket chain is that they are all safely Republican.
As of Thursday morning, 105 Publix stores were offering limited numbers of shots to people 65 and older in Bay, Citrus, Collier, Escambia, Flagler, Hernando, Marion, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, St. Johns, Volusia and Walton counties.
All 12 counties were won comfortably by Republican President Donald Trump in November and by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2018.
Asked Wednesday while in St. Johns County about when the vaccination partnership could stretch into neighboring and more urban Duval County, DeSantis said the initial rollout has focused on areas where hospital systems might need assistance and where there are large senior populations.
“I think the thing that separates, like a Duval from a Flagler or Collier, is Duval has a really strong hospital system,” DeSantis said. “You’ve got many hospitals, a lot of them have gotten doses. I know people have gotten shots at a bunch of these different places.”
DeSantis included Miami-Dade and Orange counties as having big health-care infrastructures, which isn’t the same in places like Marion, Hernando and Citrus.
“We saw a gap there that we could really get the shots up right now,” DeSantis said, adding the goal would be to have vaccines available at all Publix locations in Florida.
But the Lakeland-based supermarket giant has 817 locations in the state, according to its website.
“If we did it everywhere, you can do the math, you’d need hundreds of thousands of doses just for Publix, and they'd run out in four or five days on that clip,” DeSantis said.
Stores offering vaccinations are getting about 100 to 125 doses a day.
And while the state can’t stop non-Floridians from skipping into lines, DeSantis said the Publix offerings are intended for Floridians.
“I know if you live in Mobile, Ala., maybe you want to come to Pensacola. Well, we're doing it for Floridians,” DeSantis said. “Now, obviously, we have some people that only live here half the year, that's fine. But if you're kind of a permanent resident in these neighboring states, we do want it for Floridians. I don't think you're going to police the different county stuff. But obviously it's easier for folks to get to Publix that are close to them.”
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