Publix will not administer the COVID vaccine to children under 5 years of age

Since COVID-19 vaccines first became available, Publix has played an important role in addressing the health emergency in Florida offering vaccines to adults and, subsequently, to 5-year-olds.

But the Lakeland-based food company says it will not offer the approved vaccine for children 4 years of age and younger “at this time.”

Spokeswoman Hannah Herring said on Tuesday that Publix will not release a statement explaining its decision. The company’s website indicates it is still accepting COVID-19 vaccine appointments for children ages 5 and up.

The company still offers other vaccinations for children, including the flu shot for babies as young as 6 months.

Related: ‘Waiting so long’: COVID vaccines reach younger Floridians

The launch of the vaccine for the nation’s youngest children was complicated in Florida, where state leaders questioned the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, going against recommendations from the nation’s major health regulators and medical associations.

Florida surgeon general Joseph Ladapo recommended not giving vaccines to healthy children, contrary to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida was the only state in the nation not to pre-order doses of the vaccine under age 5, which the White House says could delay delivery to health care providers in the state. Parents of children under the age of 18 months must rely on pediatricians, medical clinics, and children’s hospitals to vaccinate their children.

Publix is ​​not interested because it is enrolled in the federal retail pharmacy program, which means it orders vaccine doses directly from the federal government.

Related: Do you have questions about COVID vaccines for babies and toddlers? Here’s the answers.

The governor selected Publix to become a key part of the vaccine launch in Florida in early 2021. By that April, the food chain was the largest vaccine supplier in Florida and was receiving nearly a quarter of the doses of the state.

The company is Florida’s largest private employer and a regular political campaign donor to both major political parties, though its donations skew Republicans. He donated $ 100,000 to Governor Ron DeSantis’s 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 for children aged 3 and up.

“While we expect most of these vaccines to be distributed to pediatric suppliers, we plan to administer licensed vaccines for children between the ages of 3 and 5, if supply and distribution permits,” the Walmart spokesperson said. Tyler Thomason in an email.

Related: Florida babies, young children face a COVID vaccine delay, the White House says

On Tuesday, South Tampa mother-of-two Samantha Thompson was able to book a vaccination appointment for her 3-year-old son at the local Publix. She then received a phone call informing her that the chosen location was not authorized to vaccinate children under 5 years of age.

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She will now have to cross the bay next week to vaccinate her son at a Walgreens in Seminole, which she said was the closest she could find.

“It’s frustrating, because there is so much confusion,” Thompson said. “During the whole process, it seems our interests are not being taken into consideration.”

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How to take the test

Florida: The Department of Health has a list of test sites.

The nation: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can help you find a test site.

• • •

How to get vaccinated

The COVID-19 vaccine is administered in clinics, doctors’ offices, public health offices, and retail pharmacies. Here’s how to find a site near you:

Find a site: Visit to find vaccination sites in your zip code.

More help: Call the national hotline for COVID-19 vaccination assistance.

Phone: 800-232-0233. The guide is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

TTY: 888-720-7489.

Access line and disability information: Call 888-677-1199 or email [email protected]

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SYMPTOMS: Do you think you may have COVID-19? Here is a guide to symptoms and treatments.

SONS: Babies and young children can now be vaccinated. Here are the answers to your questions.

WARNING: How the CDC’s COVID-19 warning system fails in Tampa Bay and Florida.

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