Calling Publix a popular grocery store is something of an understatement: The chain has developed closer to a cult following in the Southwest. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t made its fair share of controversial decisions, like when it ended a 15-year prescription medication program for shoppers earlier this month. If that move caught you off-guard, you’ll want to be aware of another potentially controversial choice on the horizon. Publix just confirmed that it will not be allowing shoppers to do this, which will set it apart from other companies as of June 25. Read on to find out what the grocer won’t be letting you do.
Alongside other major names like Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart, Publix has played a key role in protecting shoppers from COVID. Since vaccines for the virus first became available in late 2020, the grocery chain has been offering shots to adults at all of its pharmacies. By May 2021, Publix had administered more than 300,000 COVID vaccines at its stores throughout seven Southeastern states, according to Fortune. Then in Nov. 2021, Publix expanded its COVID vaccine administration efforts to children over the age of 5 in accordance with federal guidance.
“Publix Pharmacy administers the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, including third doses and boosters, subject to eligibility,” the grocer currently states on its website.
Publix is diverging in its vaccination efforts this month. Last week, children under the age of 5 became eligible to receive COVID vaccines after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded Pfizer and Moderna’s authorizations on June 17, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) co-signed the decision on June 18. For its part, Publix will not be expanding COVID vaccine eligibility to this age group at its pharmacies, the Tampa Bay Times reported on June 23.
“Publix is not administering the COVID vaccine to individuals under 5 years of age at this time,” the company tweeted June 21 on its official customer service Twitter account. “We suggest that customers speak with pediatrician’s offices, community health centers, children’s hospitals, and public health clinics for availability at this time.”
Publix has declined to offer a reason for why it’s not administering the COVID vaccine to younger children, with spokesperson Hannah Herring telling the Tampa Bay Times that the company will not be releasing a statement explaining its decision. Instead, the grocer simply said it would not be offering the approved Pfizer or Moderna to children 4 and under “at this time.” The company still offers other child vaccinations, including the flu shot for kids as young as six months.
There is some speculation as to why Publix has made this decision. According to Fortune, the company—which is based in Lakeland, Florida—has a total retail landscape of about 1,300 stores across the Southeast, with two-thirds of these locations being in Florida. As the Tampa Bay Times explained, the “vaccine rollout for the nation’s youngest children has been complicated” in this state.
In March, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo recommended against giving COVID vaccines to healthy children—advice that contradicted CDC guidelines and was described as “deeply disturbing” by the White House. More recently, Florida was the only state to not preorder vaccine doses for the youngest age group in mid-June, before Gov. Ron DeSantis gave into public pressure and agreed to allow pediatricians and healthcare providers to order the shots, The Washington Post reported.
According to CNN, Walgreens and CVS will be offering the COVID vaccine to children under 5 years old—with certain stipulations from each company. Walgreens announced that COVID vaccine appointments for younger children will start June 25, but it will only be vaccinating children 3 and older at “select” locations.
Matt Blanchette, a senior manager of retail communications with CVS Pharmacy, told the news outlet that CVS will begin administering Pfizer’s vaccine for eligible children 18 months through 4 years at its 1,100 MinuteClinic locations starting June 28.
Walmart is also planning to offer vaccines to some children under the age of 5, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “While we expect the majority of these vaccines to be distributed to pediatric providers, we plan to administer authorized vaccines for ages 3 to 5 as supply and distribution allows,” Walmart spokesperson Tyler Thomason said in an email to the newspaper.
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