Ever since the first COVID-19 vaccines became available, Publix has played an important role in addressing the public health emergency in Florida by offering vaccines for adults and later for children as young as 5 years old.
But food company Lakeland says it won’t be offering the vaccine approved for children under the age of 4 “at this time”.
Spokeswoman Hannah Herring said Tuesday that Publix would not release a statement explaining its decision. The company’s website states that it is still accepting COVID-19 vaccination appointments for children aged 5 and older.
The company also offers other childhood vaccinations, including the flu shot for babies aged 6 months and older.
The rollout of vaccines for the nation’s youngest children has been complicated in Florida, where state leaders have questioned the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, in violation of recommendations from the nation’s top health officials and medical associations.
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo recommended against giving vaccines to healthy children, contrary to the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida was the only state in the nation not to preorder doses of the vaccine for children under age 5, which the White House said could delay shipments to medical providers in the state. Parents of children under 18 months must rely on pediatricians, medical clinics and children’s hospitals to get their children vaccinated.
Publix isn’t affected because it’s registered with the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which means it orders vaccine doses directly from the federal government.
The governor has tapped Publix to become a key part of Florida’s vaccine rollout in early 2021. By April, the grocery chain was the largest single supplier of vaccines in Florida, receiving nearly a quarter of the state’s doses.
The company is Florida’s largest private employer and a regular political campaign donor to both major political parties, though its donations are Republican-skewed. It donated $100,000 to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political committee in early 2021.
Publix’s decision not to vaccinate young children puts it at odds with Walmart, one of its main competitors in the Southeast. Walmart plans to provide vaccines to children as young as 3 years old.
“While we anticipate that the majority of these vaccines will be distributed to pediatric providers, we plan to give approved vaccines to children ages 3 to 5 years old as supply and distribution permit,” said Tyler Thomason, spokesman for Walmart , in an email.
South Tampa mother-of-two Samantha Thompson was able to book a vaccination appointment for her 3-year-old son at her local Publix on Tuesday. She then received a call telling her that her chosen location was not authorized to vaccinate children under the age of 5.
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Now she has to cross the bay to get her son’s vaccination at a Walgreens in Seminole next week, which she felt was the closest appointment she could find.
“It’s frustrating because there’s so much confusion,” Thompson said. “Throughout the process, it feels like our interests are not being considered.”
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How to get tested
Florida: The Ministry of Health has a list of testing sites.
The nation: The US Department of Health and Human Services can help you find a testing site.
• • •
How to get vaccinated
The COVID-19 vaccine is administered in clinics, medical practices, health authorities and retail pharmacies. To find a location near you:
Find a site: Visit Vaccines.gov to find vaccination centers in your zip code.
More help: Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Helpline.
Phone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.
Information and access telephone for the disabled: Call 888-677-1199 or email [email protected]
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SYMPTOMS: Do you think you might have COVID-19? Here’s a guide to symptoms and treatments.
CHILDREN: Babies and young children can now be vaccinated. Here are the answers to your questions.
WARNING: How the CDC Tampa Bay and Florida COVID-19 Alert System is Failing.
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