WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Publix booked nearly 48,000 appointments on Friday for people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, despite reports of the scheduling website not working properly.
The WPTV newsroom received dozens of calls and emails from people who said the ticker, which shows how many appointments remain in each county in Florida, was frozen for at least 20 minutes.
Maria Brous, the Director of Communications for Publix, released this statement to WPTV at 10:15 a.m.:
"This morning we were able to schedule nearly 48,000 vaccination appointments for next week. As those on the website could see, we had a brief delay in the scheduling process."
Earlier in the morning at 7:46 a.m., Brous told our news team in an email that "The system is working. Appointments are booking."
Brous said the next window to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments at Publix will open on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 7 a.m.
Setting up multiple screens to help out her neighbors, Cathy Rethmeier noticed something different about the Publix COVID-19 vaccine appointment site on Friday morning.
"There was a blue button indicating, yes, we were still waiting. But we also noticed immediately that the counters were not counting down," Rethmeier said.
And she wasn’t the only one.
Some said they got all the way to picking a date and time for the appointment but then the "Book Now" tab would not work.
"We know its taking tons of people and energy to make it all happen, we’re very grateful. But there are definitely room for improvement and we’re very hopeful. That’s why we keep doing it," Rethmeier said.
Publix continues to make adjustments to its reservation system based on customer feedback. In an important change, the scheduling button has been moved to the top of the appointment page instead of the bottom.
In addition, Publix on Friday responded to a WPTV report in which some 65 and older patients claimed they were turned away from getting vaccinated at the grocery store because they had been infected COVID-19, but it hadn't yet been 90 days since their initial symptoms appeared.
Publix released this statement to WPTV:
"CDC guidance recently was updated. We are recommunicating with our teams to ensure they have the most recent information.
We are able to vaccinate patients that have had COVID within the past 90 days if they haven't received the antibody treatment. If they did receive the antibody treatment, they would have to defer vaccination and speak with their medical provider."
Under the "Know Before You Go" section of Publix’s COVID-19 vaccine site, the company lists the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline saying "it is okay for an infected person to defer vaccine for 90 days after symptoms have resolved based on low risk of reinfection during that period."
To book an appointment at Publix, click here.