Florida Copes With 'Vaccine Tourism'

State is cracking down on out-of-staters, foreigners coming in for shots
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2021 1:49 PM CST
'Vaccine Tourism' Is Apparently a Thing
A pharmacist prepares a syringe of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Queen Anne Healthcare in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Florida is dealing with a coronavirus problem all its own. The state announced new rules this week to curb what's become known as "vaccine tourism"—non-residents traveling to the state to get their COVID shots, reports the Tallahassee Democrat. From now on, those signing up for appointments will need to provide proof of residency. Coverage:

  • The start: The issue has been going on for weeks now because the state opened up shots to anyone 65 and older, whether they were residents or not, per the Wall Street Journal. However, actual state residents were getting increasingly fed up with being jumped in line. “It’s disgusting,” a 76-year-old Miami Beach resident tells the newspaper. “It’s not fine with me if everyone is jumping in and I have to wait six months. At my age, time is running out for me, and that’s not fair.”
  • Out-of-staters: People came in from elsewhere in the US. For example, WBMA talks to a Georgia couple who drove two hours to cross the border and get their shots. "They knew that we were coming from out of state and they said that that was fine, so we didn't feel like we were pushing anybody else out, which we didn't want to do," says Connie Wallace.

  • Foreigners: But out-of-staters weren't the only non-Floridians taking advantage. The Sun Sentinel reports that foreigners, particularly Argentinians and Canadians, also exploited the rules. “If I would have had the possibility of doing it in Argentina, I would have done it," attorney Ana Rosenfeld tells the newspaper. She got her shot near Tampa. A newspaper in Buenos Aires, Clarin, reported that about a dozen corporate execs also flew to Florida for vaccinations.
  • Snowbirds OK: The new rules will not prohibit "snowbirds"—Americans who reside in Florida only in winter—from getting shots, reports CNN. "Now we do have part-time residents who are here all winter," says state Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees. "They go to doctors here or whatever, that's fine. What we don't want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line."
  • Big picture: CNN talks to a Vanderbilt expert who isn't that fazed by the "vaccine tourism" phenomenon. "Rather than 'it's my vaccine, not yours,' (getting) vaccine in arms is what we want," says Dr. William Schaffner. "I would hope we quickly have enough vaccine so we don't have to belabor these somewhat petty issues."
  • Road trip: In the New York Times, David Leonhardt describes a "vaccine road trip" he took with his 74-year-old mother. She was living with him in DC, where the rollout has been cumbersome. She usually lives in Colorado, so they booked a slot for her there. Leonhardt drove her to St. Louis, and a sister took her the rest of the way to Denver.
(Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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