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Doctor concerned over Publix getting priority in vaccine distribution

In some Florida counties, Publix is the only place residents can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A local doctor is criticizing the state’s rollout of vaccines saying communities of color are left at a disadvantage.

First Coast News reported how officials in other Florida cities are concerned about Publix playing a large role, sometimes being the sole distributor, of COVID-19 vaccines.

In a Twitter thread, Dr. Sunil Joshi of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation said it was an example of elitism and systemic racism.

As second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine rolled out in Jacksonville, Dr. Joshi discussed his reasons for the thread of tweets.

“In a vaccination distribution program, we can't just limit it to one private pharmacy that is located in certain parts of town,” Dr. Joshi said.

A Sun Sentinel article linked that Publix locations in major cities throughout Florida are far away from predominately Black communities.

That article quotes local leaders, including the Palm Beach County Department of Health, who slammed Governor Ron DeSantis for picking Publix as the sole distributors of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In Jacksonville, that remains the case as Publix locations with pharmacies are miles away from residents in those communities.

Dr. Joshi said this is not good considering the rates at which African-Americans people are infected with COVID-19 and die from the virus.

The CDC reports African-Americans are 1.4 times likely to get COVID-19, and the death rate is 2.8 times higher.

Dr. Joshi says its concerning when COVID-19 vaccine sites are not in areas of need.

“I think what inadvertently happens, and I don't think anybody does this on purpose, okay, I think inadvertently what happens when you do that is you are excluding people who are in these pharmacy deserts or food deserts,” Dr. Joshi explained.

The vaccine distribution is in the state’s control — dictating when, where, and how much vaccine a municipality or private entity can give out.

First Coast News reached out to the City of Jacksonville to ask if additional COVID-19 vaccine sites were being considered.

A spokesperson sent FCN the following statement:

“At this time, we only have supply for the second dose at our two senior centers. When we receive new information about additional supplies, we will reach out to the media. We stand ready to open additional facilities throughout Jacksonville if we receive more vaccines.”

Dr. Joshi feels that the city and state need to re-evaluate where they can distribute COVID-19 vaccines in the future.

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