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Low-income areas of Palm Beach County struggle to get COVID-19 vaccine

Lack of internet access, proximity to Publix stores hamper problem
Posted at 4:25 PM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 19:08:33-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Getting shots into people's arms is America's best strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

However, one of many obstacles is how to provide those shots to underserved, low-income and rural areas of Palm Beach County.


Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that the COVID-19 vaccine will be offered at Publix pharmacies throughout Palm Beach County.

That's great news for many residents, but there are no Publix stores west of Loxahatchee Groves or in other parts of the county.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announces Jan. 19, 2021, that all Publix pharmacies in Palm Beach County will distribution COVID-19 vaccines
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Jan. 19, 2021, that all Publix pharmacies in Palm Beach County will distribution COVID-19 vaccines to seniors.

In the Northwood neighborhood of West Palm Beach, where Sherman Winn lives, getting a vaccine, he said, isn't exactly easy.

"If you live around here, there is no transportation and only for the selected few. You have to be on the wealthy side," Winn said.

RELATED: Publix COVID-19 vaccine appointments fill up rapidly in Palm Beach County

He said he knows the vaccine is now available at Publix pharmacies, but that requires an online appointment, and he doesn't have a computer, and there isn't a Publix near him.

"The closest Publix is on Blue Heron [Boulevard] going towards Singer Island. ... From here to Blue Heron, it's about three miles," Winn said.

The governor said 90 percent of Palm Beach County's seniors live within a half-mile of a Publix store. But for some of the remaining 10 percent, it can be a challenge.

Patrick Franklin
Patrick Franklin, the president of the Palm Beach County Urban League, worries seniors in low-income communities will miss out on getting vaccinated.

Patrick Franklin, president of the Palm Beach County Urban League, said a lack of internet access and proximity to Publix stores are a problem in lower-income areas.

"[Underserved areas are] in the middle of a food desert, and these food deserts run up and down the coast from fort pierce to Miami," Franklin said.

Franklin said a recent vaccine event at a local church drew more people from outside the neighborhood, leaving many local seniors out of luck and still hoping to be vaccinated.

A Publix spokesperson said earlier this week they realize many seniors may have trouble with computers and they advise family members or friends to provide assistance.