WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County is changing the way senior residents will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach, said during a news conference Tuesday that the email-based system will be going away.
Alonso said health officials have received more than 200,000 emails since Dec. 29 from eligible residents seeking appointments.
"We're going to focus on scheduling all those people with appointments," Alonso said.
Alonso said future appointments will be made by registering directly through the individual vaccination sites. She said details will be forthcoming "once we get to that point where we finish all these appointments."
The news conference came hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis said all 67 Publix pharmacies in Palm Beach County would receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay also spoke during the news conference, urging all the senior residents in her district to get vaccinated. She said about 319 people in the western Palm Beach County communities have received the vaccine thus far.
"That is woefully under-represented," she said.
McKinlay said she was "thankful that the governor chose to make Palm Beach County his first large urban county" for the vaccine distribution through the Publix partnership.
"But make no mistake about it," she said. "It puts our rural communities at a further disadvantage."
McKinlay said that, west of Loxahatchee Groves, "you will not find another Publix for 108 miles until you get to the eastern side of Lee County and Lehigh Acres."
"There are no Publixes in the western side of Palm Beach County. None in Hendry County. None in Glades County," McKinlay continued. "So our rural communities are getting put at a further disadvantage and that gives me grave concerns, and I urge the governor to please work with our rural communities and find other partners where a Publix is not available."
Commissioner Mack Bernard, who, along with Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner, met with DeSantis last week, said the governor promised to work with other partners to make the vaccine accessible to all seniors who want it.
"This is just a start," Bernard said.