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Vaccination sign surrounded by palm trees

Snowbirds flocking to Florida for COVID vaccine

Tuesday, January 26, 2021 @ 8:51 AM | By Rosanna Berardi

Rosanna Berardi %>
Rosanna Berardi
Both Americans and foreign nationals have been known to seek refuge in Florida during the cold winter months to soak in the sun and lie on the beach, but this year the Sunshine State has seen an influx of snowbirds who wish to take advantage of another attraction — the COVID-19 vaccine. Florida is one of the first states in the U.S. to offer vaccines to senior citizens and people around the world are travelling to get it.

The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, signed an executive order on Dec. 23, 2020, including persons 65 years of age and older to the list of those eligible for the first round of the COVID-19 vaccine. This goes beyond the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation, which provides that people 75 years and older should be next in line for the vaccine after the initial round of vaccinations have been administered to frontline essential workers. DeSantis stated that prioritizing senior citizens is very important for reducing mortality and for reducing the number of people who need to be hospitalized for COVID-19.

Florida’s “Seniors First” initiative has caught the attention of senior citizens around the world, resulting in an influx of people participating in what is now referred to as “vaccine tourism.” Individuals are travelling to Florida from all over as the vaccine sites are open to anyone who falls in the four priority groups, regardless of state or county residency. While many of the travellers are seasonal residents and/or property owners in Florida, some travel specifically to get the vaccine and then leave.

Reports show there has been a noticeable influx of Canadian snowbirds making the trip down south to get the vaccine notwithstanding Canada’s plea to seniors not to travel abroad, and the U.S.-Canada border closure for non-essential workers. Canada’s senior citizens are choosing to fly down to Florida, rather than wait — what could be months — to receive the vaccine in their area. This is surprising to many given the number of hurdles these Canadian seniors must go through to access the vaccine abroad.

To access the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida as a Canadian, individuals must first secure a vaccine appointment at an administering facility in Florida. Starting Jan. 26, 2021, they will also have to test negative for COVID-19 within three days of boarding their flight to the U.S. Once they receive their first dose of the vaccine in Florida, they will then be required to wait three to four weeks before receiving their second shot. To fly back to Canada, each traveller must receive another negative COVID-19 test prior to their departure and be prepared to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada.

As you can see, this is no simple task, but some Canadians are still willing to make the trip if it means getting access to the vaccine. As of Jan. 19, 2021, over 500,000 individuals 65 years and older were vaccinated in Florida, and approximately 37,000 were from out-of-state. Florida residents have expressed resentment towards outsiders coming in and using up vaccine supplies, claiming they should be first in line. As Florida is home to more than 4.5 million people age 65 and older, many are concerned there will not be enough doses available for Florida residents. Despite these concerns, Florida has not yet issued any residency requirements and, instead, has asked its residents to be patient as vaccines are administered throughout the state.

Until Florida implements a formal residency requirement, it appears that vaccines are fair game for out-of-state senior citizens. This is good news to many Canadian snowbirds making their way down to Florida this winter. International travellers should continue to keep an eye out for updates regarding COVID-19 protocols and travel restrictions as America’s vaccine rollout ensues.

Rosanna Berardi is the managing partner of Berardi Immigration Law and the CEO of High Wire Woman, where she helps working women create a blueprint to live their lives in a simpler way and take back their most precious commodity: their time.

Photo credit / smodj ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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