Though so-called “vaccine tourists” are likely scrambling to change plans after Florida officials cracked down on outsiders traveling there to jump the line for inoculations, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has not heard of any Mainers engaging in that practice.
“We’re getting lots and lots and lots of calls from people” who are under 70 and would like to get the vaccine, said Robert Long, the communications director for the Maine CDC. “But we’re not hearing them say, ‘All right, if you can’t do it, we’ll hop in a car and go to Florida.’ … We have not heard of snowbirds dashing down to Florida to get vaccinated.”
Florida had allowed anyone 65 and older to get vaccinated, regardless of residency status. But that changed this week, after news outlets reported that some non-Floridians, including wealthy Argentinians, had participated in vaccine tourism — traveling to the state just to get vaccinated.
On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the shots should be reserved for full-time, or at least part-time residents of the Sunshine State.
Those seeking vaccines in Florida now must show either a valid driver’s license from that state or state ID card to qualify. Seasonal residents who seek vaccinations — including Maine snowbirds who flock there in the winter — must show copies of documents that prove residential address, such as a deed or rental agreement, a utility bill and mail from a financial institution.
Unlike Florida, Maine is only allowing state residents to be vaccinated in phase 1B of its public health plan to combat the virus.That’s because the federal government has allocated the supply of vaccines to states based on population, Long said.
Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership that is distributing doses of vaccine, did not factor Maine’s demographics into the formula. The state has the highest median age in the country.
“When Maine’s vaccine allocation increases, or if the Biden Administration issues new guidelines for how doses are distributed to states, we will review the residency requirement, as it remains our goal to vaccinate everyone as quickly and fairly as possible,” Long said.
News reports showing somewhat chaotic scenes from Florida’s vaccine rollout may also have dissuaded residents of other states from making plans to go there, he said.
“Other states who have gone to some version of first-come, first-served are not having particularly orderly or equitable vaccination plans,” he said. “That kind of disorder is something we’re trying to avoid.”