A shift in vaccination strategy by the Biden Administration from mass vaccination sites to smaller, retail pharmacy sites like CVS, Walgreens and in Florida, Publix, will have far-reaching political implications in Florida this week.
Senior White House officials acknowledged that the smaller sites are significantly more effective because they are more popular with Americans and less costly than the federal sites. The admission throws cold water on one of the major Democrat criticisms of Governor Ron DeSantis that his reliance on Publix Supermarkets was politically motivated.
From a national story in Politico that broke this morning:
Federal data show the retail pharmacy program — which has signed up 21 chains and 17,000 stores — can reach far more Americans in a shorter time, according to four senior officials with direct knowledge of the matter. The bottom line, those sources said, is that more Americans seem to be willing to walk to their local pharmacist to get the vaccine than to travel to a federal vaccination site for the shot.
That represents a shift in strategy for the Biden administration, which touted the hubs as a powerful tool to rapidly accelerate the nation’s vaccine rollout and a symbol of the president’s push to give the federal government a larger role in the pandemic response. But FEMA data obtained by POLITICO make clear that the pharmacy sites are far outpacing the stadiums, arenas and convention centers enlisted as mass vaccination sites.
DeSantis has been under fire from Florida Democrats for months after his initial vaccine site rollout strategy centered on carefully planned press conferences at Publix Supermarkets in communities across the state. Democrats were quick to criticize the announcements and pointed out that Publix has been a major political donor to DeSantis.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has been the most vocal Democrat, holding a press conference in which she called for FBI officials to investigate DeSantis’s reliance on Publix supermarkets, alleging the vaccine rollout strategy was tied to campaign contributions.