Fury of elderly residents forces Florida to block cash-rich vaccine tourists
MIAMI (US) – At a time when millions of elderly Florida residents are scrambling to register for the limited, yet growing, supply of coronavirus vaccines, the officials in the state are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the shots are given only to part- and full-time residents of the state.
Retired teacher Shirley Hicks, 70, from the west coast of the state, spent three weeks sitting before a computer to find a dose for her eighty-year-old husband, Michael, when Florida became one of the first states to permit vaccines for those aged 65 and above.
As there are residency requirements for the shots, wealthy tourists from New York, Canada, Argentina and even India have joined the rat race to get a jab in Florida.
With the huge inflow of vaccine tourists, Hicks found it really hard to get up before dawn for days at a stretch to try and get an appointment through Publix Super Markets, Inc., Florida’s largest grocer roped in for the vaccination drive.
“It makes me sad, it makes me angry,” she said.
After a long struggle, she was finally able to secure an appointment this week for her husband to get the vaccine on February 8.
The fact remains that nearly 800,000 of the state’s 4.4 million 65-and-older population lives at or below the poverty line. This has sparked concerns that wealthier tourists could sideline at risk members.
LeadingAge Florida is a lobbying group representing more than 500 properties housing more than 80,000 senior residents. “Part of those numbers are seniors that live in HUD-sponsored (Department of Housing) and affordable housing communities,” said communications director Nick Van Der Linden.
“Part of our priority since the beginning of 2020 was to work with state agencies to let them know and make them aware that it’s not just longterm care facilities, that there is a large number of low income seniors and we want to make sure they do not get overlooked.”
As of Thursday more than 1.3 million doses of the coronavirus shots have been distributed, said the health department of Florida.