Publix, one of the largest retail chains in the Southeast, is refusing to offer COVID-19 shots for children under age five. “Publix is not administering the COVID vaccine to individuals under 5 years of age at this time,” said the retail giant on its corporate website. According to Tampa Bay Times, a Publix spokesperson has declined to give an explanation or any other information regarding the company’s decision.
Publix’s customer service Twitter account is directing customers to “speak with pediatrician’s offices, community health centers, children’s hospitals, and public health clinics for availability at this time.”
With nearly 1,300 stores in seven southern states, most of which are in the Sunshine State, the Florida-headquartered corporation was a major player in executing that state’s vaccination program in 2021. But in March of 2022, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo became the first state surgeon general to advise against COVID shots for healthy children. (Florida state guidelines do recommend parents of children with underlying health conditions or comorbidities consider vaccinating their kids against COVID.)
More recently, Florida became the only U.S. state that declined to pre-order pediatric COVID shots, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, from the federal government.
“I would say we are affirmatively against the COVID vaccine for young kids,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Thursday. “These are the people who have zero risk of getting anything.” He assured Floridians that “There’s not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to, you know, get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns. That’s not something that we think is appropriate, and so that’s not where we’re going to be utilizing our resources in that regard.”
DeSantis went on to assert that the FDA panel that approved the shots for infants and toddlers did so to placate panicky parents. “To do an emergency-use authorization for a 6-month-old or a 1-year-old simply to placate anxiety, that’s not the standard when you’re doing this.”
Although the state of Florida has not pre-ordered infant and toddler doses and is not planning any state vaccination programs for kids, Publix can still order its own supply. The company is enrolled in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, enabling it to obtain COVID shots directly from the federal government.
Tampa Bay Times reports that Publix competitor Walmart will vaccinate children under five but is drawing the line at children younger than three. “While we expect the majority of these vaccines to be distributed to pediatric providers, we plan to administer authorized vaccines for ages 3-5 as supply and distribution allows,” Walmart spokesperson Tyler Thomason told the Times in an email.