People from around the world have been traveling to Florida, but the state’s public health department and various elected officials — including Governor Ron DeSantis — aren’t happy about it.
The influx of people is due to what’s been called “vaccine tourism,” or the practice of traveling to somewhere to get the COVID-19 vaccine, getting the jab, and then leaving.
Now Governor DeSantis is taking steps to — somewhat — curb the practice.
Why This Is Happening
The problem started in December, when DeSantis signed an executive order (PDF) specifying that people over the age of 65 would be the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
However, since the order did not include a requirement for residency, people over the age of 65 from around the world have been traveling to Florida to receive the vaccine.
For example, an article from The Wall Street Journal explains that some wealthy Canadians have been traveling to Florida for the vaccine.
“We’re getting requests now from clients who are willing to fly into Florida, if they have an appointment [to receive the vaccine], and then fly home again on the same day,” Janelle Brind, a vice president with the Toronto-based private jet service Momentum Jets, told the WSJ.
Former Citigroup chairman Richard Parsons told Bloomberg that he and his wife flew from their home in New York to Miami when he heard Florida was vaccinating people over the age of 65, “no questions asked.”
There are even reports of wealthy Argentines who have traveled to Miami for the vaccine.
Outrage over the practice may have reached its peak after Argentinian TV personality Yanina Latorre told her 1.5 million followers on Instagram that she and her elderly mother traveled to Florida so her mother could get the vaccine — and then Latorre explained how a friend helped her mom make the appointment. The story was reported widely.
In response to the growing media coverage and demand from Florida’s own citizens for the vaccine, Governor DeSantis announced at a news conference this week that while he doesn’t object to someone who lives in Florida part-time getting a vaccine while they are living in Florida, he is taking steps to ensure out-of-state residents aren’t able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Florida.
“We’re not doing ‘vaccine tourism,’” DeSantis said, per Florida Today. “To just kind of come in from another country or whatever, we don’t support that, and we’re not going to allow that.”
Moving forward, people who have an out-of-state ID will be required to provide proof-of-residency or semi-permanent residency to get a vaccination, Florida Today explains. Examples of those documents may include a utility bill or a signed lease agreement for property in Florida.
DeSantis explained that the Florida government wants to make sure that senior citizens get vaccinated first, but also that “people who live here are first in line.”
“That can include people who live here half the year,” DeSantis said. “But it’s not for people who are just visiting.”
For the latest on travel in the age of COVID-19, see our COVID-19 category.