ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — St. Johns and Flagler counties were added to the list of counties Tuesday where senior citizens can get a COVID-19 vaccinations inside Publix stores.
Only Publix locations in certain counties are part of the current rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the Sunshine State.
"Publix is only two blocks from my house. I’m over 65 so it’s great," Rick Livingstone said as he welcomed the news that his store in Vilano Beach will start administering the vaccine to people 65 and older.
The vaccine will be given to eligible people by appointment only.
"I’m going to get it here, if I can get in," Livingstone said. "That’s the thing."
The State of Florida and Publix have selected 12 counties where the stores will have the COVID-19 vaccine:
- St. Johns
- Santa Rosa
While many are in the panhandle, the rest are sprinkled around the state. Gov. Ron DeSantis said the counties were chosen based on the population of elderly people.
"We looked at counties that are maybe a little more medium-sized, that have a lot of elderly people, a percentage," Gov. DeSantis said.
First Coast News checked out figures with the US Census.
For the counties where Publix will distribute vaccines, most have populations where 20% - 36% percent of the residents are older than 65. However, not all of them are that high.
Four counties have senior populations of about 16%: Bay, Escambia, Okaloosa, and Santa Rosa.
DeSantis said another factor in choosing which counties would participate in the Publix rollout was access to hospitals.
"I think the thing that separates a Duval from Flagler or Collier is Duval has a strong hospital care system," Gov. DeSantis said. "Big hospitals."
Certainly Duval County has a larger healthcare infrastructure compared to St. Johns County. In St. Johns County, there are small medical offices, but there is only one hospital: Flagler Hospital.
"We saw a gap there that we would get the shots up, but our goal is let’s do it, everywhere," DeSantis said.
The governor said he would like to see Publix stores in all Florida counties to eventually have the COVID-19 vaccine.
"I’d say anyone who is eligible for it should go sign up right away and get it," Livingstone said. "The faster we get through this, the better."