- January 7, 2021
Elaine Dabney isn’t eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine just yet.
However, it didn’t stop the Longboat Key resident from signing her 70-year-old husband up to receive the vaccine anywhere she could. She said she had six devices open to make the appointment before finally getting through with her iPad for Publix’s COVID-19 vaccine. So on Saturday, they headed for a store in Deltona, a community between Orlando and Daytona Beach.
“I’m fairly techie, but for the common person it would be a daunting experience, and it was just crazy,” Dabney said. “Plus, again, that’s also before the state of Florida realized how many people were coming from other states and making the possibility of getting an appointment in this millennium almost impossible.”
Traffic delays on Interstate 4 forced the Dabneys into a longer roundtrip than they anticipated.
“I-4 was a ‘parking lot’ from Haines City to Orlando,” Tom Dabney said.
The 300-mile round trip drive took the couple 10 hours from Longboat Key. Each way is about a three-hour drive with normal traffic conditions.
But once they arrived, Tom Dabney called the process “a breeze.”
“The pharmacist preps five to six shots at a time, then calls your name, gives you the shot, then you sit there for 15 minutes so they can monitor you before you leave,” Tom Dabney said. “I was in and out in 25 minutes, which includes [a] 15-minute waiting period after the shot.”
In mid-January, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced only full-time and part-time Florida residents would be eligible to receive the vaccine through the state.
Tom Dabney said he had registered for an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine with both the health departments in Manatee and Sarasota counties. He has yet to be chosen to receive the vaccine from either county. Tom Dabney had hoped to receive a call from one of the county health departments to avoid having to drive several hours away.
“The transparency of the [Pubilx] system is way superior to the lack of transparency that the government runs,” Tom Dabney said.
Elaine Dabney’s echoed her husband’s sentiments.
“Overall, it’s unconscionable how they have done this when they have known for over a year,” Elaine Dabney said. “Most people certainly understand that supply is limited, but to add to people’s stress, especially the elderly for the way that they’re distributing or the way to get it, it’s just unconscionable.”
The Dabneys hope to see a vaccination site in Longboat Key soon.
“We have a 90-year-old neighbor, I can’t imagine,” Elaine Dabney said. “I’m hoping her family is helping her.”
Longboat Key leaders have had conversations with health departments in Manatee and Sarasota counties to try to bring a COVID-19 vaccination site to the island, but there is no agreement yet.
Publix offers the Moderna vaccine in 20 of Florida’s 67 counties, according to director of communications Maria Brous. Charlotte County is the closest.
“Publix does not determine the counties in which we offer the vaccines,” Brous said. “Counties are determined by the governor's office.”
Brous said the criteria the governor's office uses is based on which communities have a high population of 65 and older, more rural areas and areas that don't have an established distribution plan in effect.
Town Manager Tom Harmer called Publix's COVID-19 vaccine distribution a “pilot program” with the state.
“[The governor] picked several Publix around the state, primarily, initially in the north-central part of the state,” Harmer said.
On its website, Publix lists when people can sign up for appointments. Typically, the supermarket chain picks a day of the week for a 6 a.m. sign-up process.
Eligibility requirements mandate Florida residents must make an appointment. They are only eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine if they’re healthcare personnel with direct patient content, residents and staff of long-term healthcare facilities or if they are 65 and older.
Publix says a second dose of the vaccine is scheduled exactly 28 days after their first appointment. The appointment day and time will match the appointment when the person received the first dose.
The grocery store chain only allows people to make appointments online.