Canadian snowbirds travelling south of the border getting COVID-19 vaccine
TORONTO -- Some Canadian snowbirds who have travelled south of the border this winter considered themselves lucky to able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the sunshine state, but locals are voicing frustration that foreigners are allowed to lineup for the shot.
In Florida, anyone over the age of 65 is eligible to receive the vaccine along with health-care workers during the first phase of the vaccine rollout. State officials continue to discourage people from travelling to the state for the sole purpose of getting the shot, but there are no policies preventing seasonal residents from booking an appointment.
“I never thought of the vaccine until three or four weeks ago when it was released,” said Oakville, Ont. resident Steve MacDonald who has rented a condo with his wife Janet in Key Largo.
The MacDonalds are staying in Munroe County, where the state of Florida has just announced it’s expanding the vaccine rollout to residents 65 years old and older. The couple are in their 70s and are now trying to book an appointment to get the shot instead of waiting until it’s available to them in Canada.
“The earliest we could get (the vaccine) is May – so if I can get it two or three months earlier then why not,” MacDonald said.
The Canadian government and public health officials continue to advise against all non-essential travel.
Martin Firestone is an insurance broker in Toronto and says most of his clients who travel to Florida in the winter initially decided not to go this year because of the pandemic, but recently he’s been fielding dozens of phone calls from those same clients who are opting to go south.
“With the advent of the vaccine or the possibility to get the vaccine in Florida they have now inquired about purchasing travel insurance to head down and many of them are and having their first vaccination right now,” Firestone said.
Federal regulations and guidance from emergency managers agree that there cannot be residency requirements for receiving the vaccine.
According to the Florida Department of Health, the COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to more than 1 million people, however it’s not clear how many are Canadians or non-residents.
The vaccine is in short supply and some locals argue that only Floridians should be able eligible first.
"We're first. Get to the end of the line if they want to come," Judy Allen told an NBC reporter at vaccine clinic near Orlando.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is calling for the vaccine rules to be revised only for those who live inside the city limits.
Florida Senator Rick Scott also recently took to Twitter stating the vaccines must go to Floridians first, including health-care and front-line workers along with the most vulnerable.
MacDonald, who is planning to stay in Florida until April, doesn’t see the issue.
“Seasonal residents can transmit the disease the same as permanent residents, we’re all in the same boat with this thing.”
With files from the Associated Press