Senior citizens camp out in Daytona Beach for COVID vaccine

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis removes his mask to answer questions during a press conference touting the expanded rollout of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19, at Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital in Longwood, Fla., Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.

Four Publix store pharmacies in Citrus County will administer the COVID-19 vaccine to customers 65 and older starting later this week.

The four are Crystal Springs Shopping Center, 6760 State Road 44 in Crystal River; Shoppes of Sugarmill Woods, 9525 U.S. 19 in Homosassa; Publix Plaza, 1012 W. Main St. in Inverness; and Shoppes of Citrus Hills, 2601 N. Forest Ridge Blvd., Hernando.

The Rainbow Square Shopping Center at 11352 N. Williams Street, Suite 400 in Dunnellon, will also carry the vaccine.

Publix will launch an online reservation system to be activated Thursday for folks to make appointments.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a news conference in Ocala on Tuesday that 22 Publix pharmacies in Marion, Citrus and Hernando counties will have about 15,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and that the program can be expanded as more becomes available.

It is expected that each pharmacy will be able to handle up to about 120 vaccinations a day, according to Publix, which is partnering with the Florida Department of Health to administer the vaccine.

DeSantis, speaking inside an Ocala-area Publix, called the announcement exciting “because of the potential for convenience for seniors (and) it could be a major force multiplier throughout the state of Florida.”

According to the governor and Publix’s website, the online registration process will begin Thursday. Still, DeSantis urged caution.

“Understand, there will be more demand than they will be able to accommodate at first,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you’re not going to get in; this is kind of the first inning, if you don’t get in this time, try the next day, then the next day. As we get more vaccine, there will be more opportunities to be able to get it. We’re not going to quit on this.”

Publix can provide the state, DeSantis said, with a great mechanism to make it convenient and easily available in almost every crevice in Florida.

“I know many people who shop here would be in our target age demographic,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to watch this pilot project, I have no doubt (Publix) is going to do a very good job on it. As this continues to gain momentum, we’re going to send the vaccine you need as those supplies become available.”

The vaccines have been distributed throughout the state, DeSantis said.

“The issue is making sure it’s available in convenient ways for folks,” he added.

For a complete list of participating Publix locations and to make reservations when the reservation system is set up, visit https://ww4.publix.com/pharmacy-wellness/pharmacy/pharmacy-services/covid-vaccine.

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com. To see more of his stories, visit  tinyurl.com/y6kb23vv.