A large supermarket chain that was among the leaders in the early distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will now refuse to provide the jab to preschool-aged children.
According to a report Wednesday in the Tampa Bay Times, Florida-based Publix will not vaccinate children under age 5, who were recently approved by federal authorities, “at this time.”
Publix spokeswoman Hannah Herring, according to the Times, said Tuesday that the supermarket chain, which normally has 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 age 5 and older,” the Times reported.
According to the newspaper, Publix provides other vaccines, including the flu shot, for children as young as 6 months.
A dispute has formed between federal and state officials over the administration of COVID vaccines to children under the age of 5.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved COVID vaccines for these children last week, although the disease rarely has serious effects in children this young. Citing this and other reasons, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo recommended not giving vaccines to healthy children.
Florida has not ordered doses of the vaccine younger than 5 years old from the federal government, the only state in the union not to do so, which could delay distribution to Florida health care providers.
Publix received its vaccination doses directly from a federal government program, so the state dispute does not affect its theoretical ability to acquire them for children under age 5.
Publix is Florida’s largest private employer and its involvement in the vaccination program in early 2021 has played an important role in vaccinating the population in the state for retirees.
At one point, according to the Times, it was providing nearly a quarter of vaccines in Florida.