Publix refutes '60 Minutes' story that questions Florida's COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Grocery store chain calls story 'absolutely false and offensive'
Publix COVID-19 vaccine Florida
Posted at 8:36 AM, Apr 06, 2021

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Grocery store chain Publix has been at the forefront of the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida since the start of the year.

However, the Florida-based grocer was heavily criticized in a "60 Minutes" story that aired Sunday on CBS.

The story put into question why Gov. Ron DeSantis chose Publix to distribute the vaccine.

"60 Minutes" obtained campaign finance reports that show Publix donated $100,000 to the governor's political action committee before the vaccine distribution.

The report also said the heiress to the Publix fortune previously gave $55,000 to the governor's PAC.

Publix pushed back on that narrative Monday morning, issuing a statement on the matter.

"The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions made to Governor DeSantis and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state's vaccine distribution efforts is absolutely false and offensive. We are proud of pharmacy associates for administering more than 1.5 million doses of vaccine to date and for joining other retailers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia to do our part to help our communities emerge from the pandemic," Publix tweeted.

No Publix grocery stores are located in western Palm Beach County, which was another focus of the story since many seniors were left without easy access to shots for weeks.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said the "60 Minutes" report was based on "bad information" and called it "intentionally false."

Kerner said he offered to provide his insight into Palm Beach County's vaccination efforts but "60 Minutes" declined.

"'60 Minutes' should be ashamed," Kerner said in a written statement. "The governor has been incredibly supportive. We asked, and he delivered. They had that information, and they left it out because it kneecaps their narrative."

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose district includes the Glades, said vaccine access has been a problem for the western communities.

"The main concern for me has always been the decision to utilize Publix and the sole distributor of vaccines in Palm Beach County," McKinlay said.

She's fought to help set up pods and pop-up vaccine events for her constituents and said it's unfair that wealthier residents had easier access to the vaccine.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay
Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has been concerned about the inequity of vaccine access to the western communities of Palm Beach County.

"The minority community who were the hardest hit by the COVID virus in the first place were the ones who needed that vaccine the most, and initially they weren't provided that opportunity," McKinlay said.

Outgoing Florida Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz once again also refuted that Publix was given preferential treatment for vaccine distribution.

"I said this before and I'll say it again. Publix was recommended by Florida Division of Emergency Management and Florida Department of Health as the other pharmacies were not ready to start. Period! Full Stop!" Moskowitz tweeted Sunday night. "No one from the governor's office suggested Publix. It's just absolute malarkey."

Moskowitz previously said in March that the state reached out to all pharmacies, and Publix was the only one who at the time could execute the state's plan.