MIAMI – After drawing many complaints that its system was set up in a way that allowed COVID-19 vaccine “tourists,” the state of Florida will now require people to prove state residency to get the coveted shots.
State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees signed a public health advisory to that effect Thursday.
The advisory says that all vaccine providers in Florida must ensure recipients of the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine are either residents or people who are in the state “for the purpose of providing health care services involving direct contact with patients.”
Jackson Health has already asked its patients to now come to their appointments with a Florida photo ID or two documents (such as utility bills) that demonstrate residency.
People who have already received their first dose in the state will still be allowed to get the second shot even if they are not residents.
Vaccine shortages have led to struggles for senior citizens to secure appointments and have caused at least two South Florida hospital systems to cancel appointments because of dwindling supply.
“I am seeing people out there who are jumping the line. I’ve heard of out-of-towners who are getting inoculated before we are getting the vaccine,” said Dina Allende, who scored an appointment to get her 86-year-old mother vaccinated, only to learn that Baptist Health canceled her appointment, citing a lack of doses. (Allende was able to get her mother a reservation for a shot at Marlins Park.)
Mount Sinai on Thursday announced that it too would be suspending first-dose appointments because of supply issues.
The state at this point is only vaccinating residents age 65 and older, plus frontline healthcare workers and residents and employees at long-term care facilities.
According to the state’s latest data posted Thursday, 40,965 people from out of state have received vaccines in Florida.
At least 1,183,012 vaccines have been administered in the state, with 123,971 people in Florida getting both shots that are needed.
Some politicians have lobbied for Florida to receive more shots from the federal supply than its population would warrant because of the number of people from out of state who spend time here each winter.
But local leaders were in favor of being more restrictive. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez raised the possibility of limiting shots in his city to just city residents.
That hasn’t happened, but he spoke out against the out-of-towners coming in for shots as the new state-run vaccine site at Marlins Park opened this week.
“It is not legal for people to be flying in from other parts of the world and getting vaccinated as a sort of vaccination tourism,” Suarez said.
To see the full public health advisory regarding the proof of residency, click here.