A South Florida county says a new pilot program the state has mandated with Publix has tied their hands when it comes to vaccine distribution.

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And as the struggle to increase supply to meet current demand for the vaccine continues, officials worry they won't keep getting enough if outsourcing to retailers such as Publix takes priority.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has praised Publix stores recently and has instituted a pilot program to give them control over vaccine distribution in Palm Beach County.

That was met with disdain from public officials after learning that all vaccine distribution will no longer be run by the county health department.

“I am absolutely disgusted that the governor of this state has 100% taken the ability to vaccinate our residents out of the hands of our public health officials and our medical officials and given that authority to a corporate entity,” said Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay at their meeting. 

Palm Beach County health officials said that the governor could look at expanding this program across the state.

If that were to happen, mass vaccination sites like the one at the Oviedo Mall in Seminole County would no longer receive vaccines.

That's where county Emergency Manager Alan Harris says his agency has been able to vaccinate thousands of seniors.

“Here at this facility, today we did over 2,000 individuals coming through this facility. So even if you added every single one of the pharmacies in Seminole County, the number they could do, it wouldn’t equal 2,000,” Harris said. 

Harris also has concerns that limiting vaccine distribution to Publixes and retail pharmacies would make it harder for people in lower socioeconomic communities to get access to the vaccine. His county has started to bring the vaccine to seniors living in those areas.

“They (Publix) aren’t in low, fixed-income communities, and we are sending teams out into those areas so we have to be involved in those particular sections,” Harris said. 

Harris says instead of replacing their efforts, he would hope Publix could supplement what they’re already doing to get thousands inoculated.

Harris says another benefit of public health sites like his is that county paramedics are there in case someone has an allergic reaction to the vaccine.