Florida has become attached to “vaccine tourism” after Governor Ron DeSantis said the state would only offer doses of the coronavirus vaccine to residents.
Florida Surgeon General Dr Scott Rivkees on Thursday signed a public health notice setting out rules requiring vaccine suppliers to confirm patients live in the state, full-time or part-time. The move follows reports of people traveling to states like Florida to get vaccinated as rollout is slow in parts of the United States and other countries.
The order notes that doses “remain scarce” in the United States and that “availability in Florida is extremely limited.”
Officials in some counties had already warned this week that vaccinations would be limited to Floridians and seasonal residents in the future.
In Seminole County, north of Orlando, anyone wishing to receive the vaccine will need to show proof of owning or renting property in Florida, such as a driver’s license, electric bill, or rent payment, said director of emergency management Alan Harris at Orlando Sentinel.
Local reports also indicated that Volusia, Brevard and Manatee counties would apply similar requirements.
Visitors represent a small portion of the doses administered so far in Florida. More than 1.1 million people have received at least one dose and 39,214 of them – or 3.5% – are from out of state, according to a daily report from the health department of the ‘State.
Still, officials have raised concerns about people traveling quickly to Florida for vaccinations.
“To just come from another country or whatever, we’re not supporting that, and we’re not going to allow that,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “We don’t do ‘vaccine tourism’.”
The crackdown will not apply to winter residents who live in the Sunshine State for at least part of the year.
“We want to put the elderly first, but obviously we want to put the people who live here first,” the governor said. “And that can include people who live here half the year. But it’s not for the people who just visited. “
Florida, a popular destination for snowbirds from the United States and Canada, opened its vaccination program to people over 65 at the end of December, going against federal guidelines that, at the time, gave equal consideration to people over 75 and workers considered essential, such as grocery store employees. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pivoted last week and urged all states to start vaccinating the elderly.
This post has been updated to include the Florida Surgeon General Public Health Notice.