COVID vaccine vacation packages continue to attract tourists to Miami-Dade

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The free distribution of COVID vaccines continued Monday at a temporary drive-through site at Tropical Park in Miami-Dade County amid the new surge in coronavirus infections by the fast-spreading Delta variant.

There was a long line of cars entering the park from Bird Road. Among the people waiting for their turn to get a shot of the vaccine were tourists from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Colombia. The vaccine is not as accessible in some of these countries as it has been in the U.S.

While the U.S. reports 70% of adults have been vaccinated against COVID, the World Health Organization reports only 2% have been vaccinated in Guatemala, 3.2% in Honduras, 20.2% in Mexico, and 24.2% in Colombia. An international coalition is aiming to provide doses for at least 20% of countries’ populations.

Karina Hernandez, who administers vaccines at Tamiami Park, said there are travel companies, including an agency at Dolphin Mall, that advertise packages helping tourists who are going to great lengths to get the free shots. One of the travel agency’s packages offers options at several cities on the eastern or western coast of the United States.

“The package includes the flight — the vaccine obviously is free — the hotel and I think it’s the ride to the hotel as well,” Hernandez said.

Aviatur, a Colombian travel agency, published a guide for tourists who covet a break from the lockdowns in Miami and free access to the vaccine. Some tourists are staying for a month to get their second shot. Others are just traveling twice.

El Tiempo, a leading Colombian newspaper, reported VCH Viajes Chapinero, a travel agency in Bogotá was offering a $442 package to Miami that included transportation to and from the airport, a three-day hotel stay, and a city tour.

Amid the lack of supply in most countries in Central and South America, it is unclear how many tourists in Miami-Dade have benefited from the ongoing inoculation campaign in Florida, or if this has an impact on the accuracy of the vaccination rate that the Florida Department of Health is reporting.

A look at countries represented at Tamiami Park

Source: John Hopkins University tracker

CountryCOVID DeathsPopulation estimateVaccine doses administered
Guatemala10,44818.2 million2.2 million
Honduras7,83410 million1.9 million
Mexico241,034130 million67.3 million
Colombia120,99851 million27.7 million

About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.