MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — More than 289,000 people have been given the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida so far, according to the latest state data, but it doesn’t specify how many of those individuals were non-Florida residents.
Right now, there are no statewide residency requirements in order to receive a coronavirus vaccine through the Florida Department of Health. Not everyone thinks that’s fair.
With demand high and supplies limited, some residents feel they should have priority over visitors.
Alice Proffer lives across the street from a vaccination site in Manatee County. She has yet to secure an appointment for her 72-year-old husband.
“I really want him to get that vaccine. He is 72 years old, a 100% disabled veteran, he has diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and asthma,” said Proffer.
She said it’s been frustrating seeing cars pull in and out of the site near her home.
“We sat over there and watched the cars that are coming out of the park. They’ve got Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, New York, and we’re like ‘Oh, there goes our vaccine, there goes our vaccine, there goes our vaccine,’ and there’s nothing we can do about it but sit and watch,” she said.
Proffer thinks full-time residents deserve access ahead of visitors.
“I hate to say that we deserve that priority, but we do. We are the ones paying the taxes. We are here when it is 120 degrees in the summertime. We don’t go anywhere. So the state should kind of think of us as their family and try to get us in there,” said Proffer.
With “snowbird season” in full swing across the Suncoast, not everyone agrees that Floridians should have priority.
“They walk among us. They are going to be in the community. I think vaccinating whoever we can, however we can, as fast as we can is fine,” Sarasota County resident PJ Bednarski said.
Betsey Fazzina lost her husband of 45 years to the coronavirus last summer. “It just breaks my heart everyday,” she said.
The Suncoast retail worker got a vaccine Monday. She said most of her customers this time of year are snowbirds.
“If I have to work with them and wait on them, I would like to know that they are able to get a vaccination also and not have to wait for months before they go back home to get it,” said Fazzina.
She understands the frustrations others are experiencing, but feels more patience is needed.
“We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people. It is going to take time and, unfortunately, it hasn’t rolled out as we thought it would,” Fazzina said. “And there may be a lot of blocks and hurdles to go over but patience is the key and eventually everyone is going to get it that wants it and that is going to be the key to solving this.”
Proffer, on the other hand, feels state leaders need to shift their priorities.
“Right now, this vaccine is worth more than the price of gold and that is what makes this kind of dangerous because people are clamoring to get this vaccine, one way or the other, wherever they have to go to get it,” said Proffer.
A Florida Department of Health said Tuesday that “the state is committed to offering vaccines to all Floridians and non-residents, including seasonal residents.”
The spokesperson added: “It’s also important to note, for either COVID-19 vaccine to be the most effective, a second dose is required. All individuals who reside in the state during the time period between doses are eligible to receive the vaccine. The state is continuing to prioritize vaccine access to frontline health care workers and individuals 65 and older, and the state remains committed to ensuring these populations can easily receive the vaccine.”