MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gave an update to vaccine distributions across the state while Florida reports new cases of the latest strain of the COVID-19 virus.

Experts said around 31 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered to Florida, but only 12 million have been distributed.

“The shots will begin on Thursday, so this is going to happen very quickly,” said DeSantis at a media conference on Tuesday morning. “It is appointment only, so if you show up unannounced, they’re just simply going to give you the information.”

Outside of a Publix in Jupiter, DeSantis spoke about an expanded partnership with the supermarket chain.

All 67 Publix pharmacies in Palm Beach County will offer around 100 to 125 COVID-19 vaccines per day.

Two Publix locations in Monroe County in Islamorada and Key West were also added to the list. However, there was no mention of Miami-Dade or Broward locations adding vaccination sites.

“We want to expand. We’re ready to accept more vaccines, and I think our senior citizens have really appreciated that Florida’s putting them first, and we’re going to continue to do that,” DeSantis said. “You can visit for more information. The reservations are going to be open starting Wednesday for these new sites.”

DeSantis’ announcement comes as the U.S. topped a total of 400,000 COVID-19 deaths.

“If we unify as a nation, and ideally if we had unified as a nation, to fight the virus, we didn’t have to lose so many people,” Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University, said. “We let it happen. Too many people let it happen, and we can’t let this continue.”

According to the health department, 40,000 people who received their first COVID-19 dose are overdue for their second one. These individuals have passed the recommended timeframe to receive their second dose.

“We need to get the overwhelming proportion of our population, 70 to 85% at least, vaccinated,” said National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci. “When we do that, the level of virus in the community will be at such a low level, that we will be able to really approach a degree of normality that’s similar, maybe not identical, but similar to where we were before all of this.”

Health officials are also sounding the alarm about the new COVID-19 variant, which originated in the United Kingdom and is said to be around 56% more contagious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 122 cases of this strain of the virus were confirmed in 20 states. Of those cases, 46 were confirmed in Florida.

“I think people need to understand that whenever you let a wild virus go free from person to person, you are facilitating the creation of a new variant,” Marty said. “Every single time that we let it go from one person to another is another opportunity for a worse variant.”

However, doctors warn another strain from South Africa could be deadlier.

“The South African variant is extremely transmissible,” Marty said. “Only 1 in 10 persons seems to be protected from the South African variant of the people who should have immunity.”

Experts said the vaccines should work against the new strain of virus.

“It will infect many, many more people and, unfortunately, probably will end up killing more people than the current main strain that we’ve been dealing with for much of 2020,” said Brown University School of Public Health Dean Dr. Ashish Jha.

Meanwhile, Marlins Park will begin inoculating seniors 65 and over starting Wednesday. People can call 1-888-499-0840 for more information.

Jackson Health System has changed a rule to prevent visitors from being vaccinated.

“We are asking everyone to bring a U.S. government photo ID with their date of birth,” Jackson Health said in a statement. “If their ID is issued by a foreign government, the patient has to bring two documents that prove they reside in the United States, such as a utility bill, lease or property-tax statement. Vaccination is only available at this time to those who live in the United States.”

By the end of the week, there will be 181 Publix locations across 15 counties that will help in the vaccine distribution process.

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