LAKELAND, Fla. — Publix booked more than 13,500 appointments on Wednesday for people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.
According to Publix, 47% of those appointments were for K-12 teachers and child care personnel. The grocery store chain is now prioritizing educators ahead of other eligible groups because of a federal directive from President Joe Biden.
Wednesday's appointment window opened at 7 a.m. and all appointments slots were booked in just 90 minutes.
Publix announced earlier this week that moving forward, Johnson & Johnson appointments will be booked on Wednesdays, and Moderna vaccine appointments will be booked on Mondays and Fridays.
The appointments booked on Wednesdays will be scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
Publix said that as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, they will be prioritizing educators of all ages until further notice. That includes teachers, school staff members, and child care workers in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs, and those who work at licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers.
Publix said that after those individuals in the prioritized group are finished making appointments, any remaining appointments will be available to other eligible people.
"I'm asking myself, what do I have to do to schedule an appointment?" said Richard Balint.
Balint said he watched Wednesday as available appointments in Martin County were gone in 14 minutes. He’s in favor of prioritizing school staff, but wants seniors to get in on that as well.
"Can Publix not prioritize people over 80? People over 70? People 65, something like that, so at least it levels the playing field," Balint said. "I feel like we are outnumbered here."
A Publix spokesperson said its pharmacies have put seniors first. The company plans to keep the federal directive in place until further notice.
To book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine at Publix, click here.
Palm Beach County has also offered new information to help people determine where they can get vaccinated. You can find those details by clicking here.
Some seniors fear that with more groups now eligible, it will make it even more difficult to secure a vaccine.
Diane Bates of West Palm Beach said she had COVID-19 once already and now her roommate has it. She's worried she will get it again before she can get a vaccine.
"We've been trying to get the vaccine for as long as they've told us it's out there," said Bates. "I've been on the Publix one 11 times. Sitting there for two hours and ending up with zero is really aggravating. So I just can't understand why they can't get things together."
The next window to make a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at Publix will open on Friday at 7 a.m.
Here’s video of what the @Publix site looks like today @FOX29WFLX @WPTV pic.twitter.com/WPckV5ygXz— Stephanie Susskind (@StephanieWPTV) March 10, 2021
Publix reserved more than 13,500 COVID-19 vaccine appointments in 1.5 hours this morning; 47 percent of those were K-12 teacher and child care personnel. The booking site now prioritizes educators ahead of other eligible groups as a result of a federal directive. @WPTV— Michelle Quesada (@M_Quesada) March 10, 2021