Florida issued new health guidelines on Thursday in an attempt to reduce COVID-19 “vaccine tourism” and now requires that they be administered only to permanent or temporary residents.
The state’s chief health officer, Dr. Scott Rivkees, signed a public health advisory prioritizing Florida residents for vaccines, days after Gov. Ron DeSantis publicly said vaccines should be reserved for those residing full to part time in the Sunshine State.
“We’re only doing (vaccinations) for Florida residents,” DeSantis said Tuesday in Cape Coral. “You must live here full time or at least part time,” he added.
In another press conference in Rockledge on Tuesday, DeSantis made a distinction between those who live in Florida during the winter months (known as snowbirds) and those who go simply to try to get the vaccine.
“Now we have part-time residents who are here all winter,” he said. They go to the doctors here or whatever, it’s fine. What we don’t want are tourists, foreigners. We want to put older people first, but obviously we want to put people who live here first in line, ”he added.
The change came after it was reported in the news that some non-Floridians, including people with second homes in Florida and several wealthy Argentines, had traveled to the state to get vaccinated.
As of January 19, Florida has vaccinated more than 39,000 out-of-state residents. The figure includes more than 1,000 who have already received the two recommended doses, according to data from the Florida Department of Health. That represents about 3.5% of the 1.12 million people who have been vaccinated in Florida. State data do not differentiate between tourists and part-time residents.
The Factors That Explain ‘Vaccine Tourism’ In Florida
The revelations sparked frustration among Floridians who were unable to get vaccinated, who are forced to wait in lines of several hours, or who come across confusing or troubled websites.
However, this topic is not specific to Florida. Vaccine tourism is the result of a few key factors: vaccine shortages compared to demand, disorganized start of injections, and lack of consistent federal guidance, resulting in differences in availability of vaccines. vaccines between states and even between counties.
Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said vaccine tourism shows the failures in slow rollout of vaccines by federal authorities.
“If we are still in this situation in a month, we are going to have a lot of problems,” he said.
Why do people travel to get vaccinated?
Florida had allowed anyone 65 and older to get vaccinated regardless of their place of residence. That made it one of the first states to open up to that age group.
In contrast, many other states in the United States have residency requirements and require individuals to bring identification, mail, or rental vouchers to prove it. Several states have also moved closer to the recommended phase 1b guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) vaccine committee that say vaccines should go to adults over 75. years on and essential frontline workers.
Naturally, those people desperate for the vaccine, who are able to travel and are lucky enough to get an appointment to get vaccinated on complicated websites or through hotlines, have moved to get them.
Mark and Connie Wallace, who live in Shelby County, Alabama, told Citizen Free Press affiliate WBMA that they drove nearly two hours to Georgia to get vaccinated at a Publix pharmacy.
“They knew we were coming from out of state and they said it was okay,” Connie Wallace said, “so we didn’t feel like we were leaving anyone else out, which we didn’t want to do,” she added.
Connie is 68 years old and has underlying heart-related health problems, WBMA reported. The couple managed to get an appointment to get vaccinated online and ventured to Carrollton, Georgia to do so.
“I would have gone eight hours away if I had to,” Mark Wallace told WBMA.
The New York situation
Similar vaccination cases have also been observed in large metropolitan areas that cross the borders of some states.
Similar interstate vaccines have been observed in major metropolitan areas that cross borders.
New York City has vaccinated healthcare workers or other essential workers like teachers or firefighters who work in the city but live outside of the five boroughs. According to data from New York City, approximately 73% of those who have been vaccinated in New York live in the city, 15% live in another part of New York State, and the rest live in New Jersey, Connecticut or another state, or did not provide your residency information.
Community Clinic Workers Receive VaccineAs the federal government allocates vaccines based on population, this has created an uneven distribution.
Two weeks ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio sent a letter to then-Vice President Mike Pence asking him to assign more doses to “New York City and other nearby jurisdictions that are vaccinating more than their residents.”
‘Vaccine tourism’ is not a big problem, experts say
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, said he recognized that a New Yorker might be frustrated seeing a traveler from New Jersey cross state lines to get vaccinated.
However, as long as vaccines are used rather than left intact, it is not a problem from a public health perspective.
“Instead of ‘it is my vaccine, not yours’, the vaccine (put) in arms is what we want,” he said. “I would hope that soon we will have enough vaccines so that we do not have to dwell on these somewhat petty matters,” he added.
The ultimate goal is to vaccinate enough Americans to achieve herd immunity. This is generally estimated to be around 70% to 80% of the population. Schaffner noted that high demand for the coronavirus vaccine is essentially a good problem at the moment.
“There are people who are looking forward to the vaccine, wow, that’s a good thing,” he said. “So let’s not criticize their ingenuity and imagination,” he added.
Hotez said he did not view vaccine tourism as a moral issue, but stressed that traveling during the pandemic has its own risks. And he noted that all states are similarly struggling to administer enough vaccines because of problems at the federal level.
“Vaccine tourists are probably preparing to be disappointed,” he said.
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