A major grocery chain that was among the leaders in the early distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will now refuse to provide the jab to pre-school-age children.
According to a report Wednesday in the Tampa Bay Times, Florida-based Publix will not vaccinate children under 5, who were recently approved for the shots by federal authorities, “at this time.”
Publix spokesperson Hannah Herring, according to the Times, said Tuesday that the grocery chain, which typically features in-store pharmacies, will not release a statement explaining its decision.
“The company’s website indicates that it is still accepting COVID-19 vaccine appointments for children ages 5 and up,” the Times reported.
According to the paper, Publix does provide other vaccinations, including the flu shot, to children as young as 6 months.
A dispute has brewed between federal and state officials over giving the COVID vaccinations to children under 5.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the COVID shots for those children last week, though the disease rarely has serious effects on children that young. Citing that and other reasons, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo recommended against giving vaccines to healthy children.
Florida did not preorder doses of the lower-strength under-5 vaccine from the federal government, the only state in the union not to do so, which may delay distribution of it to Florida medical-care providers.
Publix got its vaccination doses directly from a federal government program, so the state dispute doesn’t affect its theoretical ability to procure them for children under 5.
Publix is Florida’s largest private employer and its involvement in the vaccination program in early 2021 played a major role in vaccinating the population in the retiree-heavy state.
At one point, according to the Times, it was providing nearly a quarter of the vaccinations in Florida.