FLORIDA — On January 21, Florida’s Department of Health announced that vaccines would be given to permanent and seasonal state residents only, precluding out-of-state and foreign visitors from getting the injection without valid proof of residency.
“The COVID-19 vaccine remains scarce in the United States, and vaccine availability in Florida is extremely limited,” the advisory issued by State Surgeon General Scott A Rivkees read.
Before the policy change, anyone over the age of 65 was eligible for vaccines in Florida, even non-residents, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Foreigners, including Canadians, were accused of so-called “vaccine tourism” for travelling to states like Florida and Arizona that allowed out-of-state seniors to apply for immunization, effectively helping them circumvent delays in their domestic country.
However, those with an out-of-state ID must present documents that verify either a permanent or semi-permanent residency. According to CTV, such paperwork can come in the form of a utility bill, property tax receipt, or lease agreement.
“Every vaccine provider should ensure that the recipient of the vaccine is either a resident of the State of Florida [or] an individual present in Florida for the purpose of providing health care services,” the public health advisory reads.
The latter requirement, however, appears to cover snowbirds — folks living in the north who migrate to the south during the winter months.
Earlier this week, Canadian snowbirds were criticized by Floridian residents for taking the vaccine amid a shortage, as CBC News reported January 19.
Snowbirds Andrew and Jill Paton of Toronto received their first dose at a clinic in their Palms Springs gated community, where the couple owns a home. Andrew said that even though their American friends were “thrilled” that the Patons got their COVID-19 shot, someone had issued a letter of complaint to their gated community board.
“It’s ridiculous. We’re not taking it from anybody,” he said. “Everybody in this community who wanted one could get one.”
Snowbirds, however, do not include just foreigners. Americans living in colder states also travel southwards for months at a time.
Dr Sonja Rasmussen, professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida, said her own parents are annual snowbirds from Minnesota who have, incidentally, received the vaccine in South Florida.
“They pay property taxes, they do spend six months a year,” she told Tampa Bay Times. “They, by all rights, should get a vaccine even though their driver’s license says Minnesota.”
Rasmussen believes that the state should not be preoccupied with geographical origin but instead focus on immunizing as many people as possible.
“If you’re living here, meet the criteria and are willing to get the vaccine, let’s stick it in your arm,” she said.
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