WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS NEWSPATH)-– Florida is cracking down on a new trend that’s being called “vaccine tourism.” Reports show people are traveling to Florida from other states to get shots. Some are even coming from Canada and other countries.
Some Floridians say they have been hitting a brick wall trying to get the vaccine. But, as they struggle to get appointments for vaccine, some are worried the already limited supply, may be going to people who don’t even live here.
“Right now, my husband is over 65 and he called and actually went online and put his name in and after a couple of days got a response, we will let you know when it’s coming,” Lisa Harding told CBS News. So far that has still not happened.
Under Florida’s vaccine plan, healthcare, long-term care workers and those 65 and up who are at least part-time residents, are eligible to get the vaccine. But according to data from the state department of health, of the more than one point one million people vaccinated so far, more than 39-thousand reside outside of Florida.
Governor Ron Desantis says people who get the vaccine need to live here, but he originally downplayed reports of vaccine tourism, “we just want to make sure it’s for Floridians.”
But there’s evidence it’s not. The Buenos Aires Newspaper Clarin recently found that a dozen wealthy Argentinans have traveled to Miami to get the shot. Argentine TV personality Yanina Latorre also recently posted video on Instagram showing her elderly mother getting vaccinated in Miami. And local media says this a celebrity lawyer from Agentina got vaccinated while visiting the sunshine state. We reached out to both women but did not hear back.
“It’s sort of a slap in the face to this community that is desperately trying to get vaccinated,” Francis Suarez is the mayor of Miami, where the vaccine supply is already limited, “I think what we need to do is be able to verify people’s addresses and make sure they’re somebody from the community.
Martin Firestone is a travel insurance broker in Toronto, Canada, where the vaccine isn’t expected until the fall. Many of his clients usually spend the winter months in Florida, “they had no intentions of going down this year, only when the vaccine became available or they heard from their friends who are down in those communities now and say, ‘I’ve got my first shot already. Like why don’t you come down?’ that prompted them to now say, ‘okay, we’re ready and we’re heading down.’
India travel agencies are also reportedly marketing a vaccine travel package. For a few thousand dollars, tourists get roundtrip airfare to the u-s and a shot upon arrival. Neither travel agency responded to our request for comment, but on social media, one of them claimed everything will be done with proper permissions from the U.S.
“I’m afraid to say that I’m not shocked by it, Harvard law professor Glenn Cohen is a medical tourism expert, “the best thing we could do, i think, would be assisting other countries to meet their rollout and to supply them with vaccines to meet the needs of their population so we don’t create this market where the wealthy and able bodied can travel. Unfortunately, we’ve ended up in a place where every country has its purchase order and every country is doing its own distribution. And that setup is part of what has set the preconditions for this instance of vaccine tourism.”
This is not only happening here. A British travel agency is offering a vaccine tourism package for the equivalent of more than 30 thousand dollars. It includes air travel to Dubai, lodging, and both doses of the vaccine. The travel agency told us in a statement remaining ethical is paramount for it.