You had to be quick on the draw to make an online appointment Thursday morning with Publix for a COVID-19 vaccination.
A Publix employee told the Chronicle that as soon as the online reservation site was activated, it took just 15 minutes for all appointments to be claimed and the limited vaccine supply exhausted.
That is true of all 22 Public pharmacies in Citrus, Hernando and Marion counties that participated in the pilot program.
Publix is asking folks to keep checking back with the online registration system at www.Publix.com/covidvaccine because the Lakeland-based chain is expecting more vaccines to arrive. When that will be is anyone’s guess.
When people accessed the Publix website used to make reservations, they saw this: “All available COVID-19 vaccine appointments at Publix Pharmacy have been claimed. Please check back again soon as more appointments may become available.”
“I’m just going to have to wait my time, that’s all,” said Stanley Fleming, 93, who had hoped to get his shot at the Publix pharmacy at Sugarmill Woods, one of four county Publix stores administering the Moderna vaccine.
“I’m like everyone else, Fleming added. “I’d like to be protected.”
The four local Publix sites participating in the vaccine program 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.
James McKelvey of Homosassa said if it is this difficult to get the first shot, he wonders how bad will it be to book an appointment for the required second shot.
McKelvey said the vaccine roll-out should be handled like the flu shot, where people make appointments with their own doctors who would get a supply and then their patients could work through them.
The current scattershot approach is not working, he said, and believes Gov. Ron DeSantis should stop, reassess the distribution and come up with a more orderly method.
Patrick O'Hare's wife, Lillian, tried getting onto the Publix website at 6 a.m. Thursday and constantly received a message to try back. When she finally got online at 9:30, all the vaccination appointments were gone.
The O'Hares, both in their 80s who live in Homosassa, say they're unlikely to change their COVID-19 prevention habits until they're vaccinated.
“We just don't go out,” O'Hare said. “People aren't wearing masks. We can't risk it.”
Chronicle reporter Mike Wright contributed to this report.