Some snowbirds and other Florida visitors can get the COVID-19 vaccine, health officials say

State changes requirements

Syringes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are sits in a container as healthcare workers are inoculated, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Even during a pandemic when travel is limited, countless people are visiting the Sunshine State, including those who migrate down here each winter to escape harsh weather elsewhere.

As COVID-19 vaccination sites pop up across the region, those snowbirds and other tourists have been asking whether they can visit those locations to get inoculated.

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Officials initially said there’s no statewide residency requirement but there has been confusion on the matter.

On Tuesday, Seminole County Emergency Management Director Alan Harris said he was on a call with emergency managers across the state and they were told there would be stricter requirements starting this week.

“We just got authorization at 11:15 this morning that if you do not own a home in the state of Florida, you need to get a shot somewhere else. Many other states are flying down here just to get the vaccine then flying back home,” Harris said. “You have to present a driver’s license, a power bill or something that says you’re a resident here in the state of Florida. That’s just gonna start tomorrow morning.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis has been asked about seasonal Florida residents and weighed in on the matter.

“If you have folks who spend four or five months a year in the state of Florida, I don’t think we want to get in a situation where we’re trying to say, ‘Oh no, you go back to Rhode Island’ or, ‘You go back to Minnesota or wherever.’ So they’re here, they have a residence and they’re not just kind of flying by night for a week or two. I’m totally fine with that,” DeSantis said Monday during a news conference in Miami-Dade County.

He said the concern is people coming from other states just to get the vaccine and then leaving.

“I think if we’re trying to mitigate the disease and the clinical consequences, I think the people who are here that are over 65 -- and again that’s much different than someone just showing up and saying, ‘Give me a shot’ and then they’re going to fly back somewhere, we obviously are not going to do that -- but for seasonal residents who are going to be here, I think it’s totally fine if they want to do it,” DeSantis said.

After some conflicting answers, a press secretary from the Florida Division of Emergency Management said this applies to seasonal residents from out of the country as well.

“The state is committed to offering vaccines to all Floridians and non-residents, including seasonal residents that may also be a Canadian or Puerto Rico resident,” she said.

She added that those who get vaccinated here should plan to receive the second dose.

“It’s also important to note, for either COVID-19 vaccine to be the most effective, a second dose is required. All individuals who reside in the state during the time period between doses are eligible to receive the vaccine,” she said.

Read the responses from local county health departments below. Please note, this responses were provided before the state updated its requirements:

Brevard county

“Doesn’t matter if you’re in-county/out-of-county; in-state/out-of-state -- if you meet the criteria -- 65 and older or a healthcare worker who provides direct patient care but not associated with a hospital system -- you are eligible in Brevard County.”

Flagler County

“Residency is not a requirement.”

Lake County

Officials said you don’t have to be a Lake County resident to get the vaccine.

Marion County

“People receiving the vaccine are not required to be full-time Florida residents. If possible, however, we ask that they include their Florida address when they register to assist us with vaccine planning.”

Orange County

“Below are the requirements for an individual to receive the vaccination as amended by the State of Florida:

  • By appointment only, no walk-ups.
  • Must be 65+ years old.
  • Must present a valid ID.”

Osceola County

“Those receiving a vaccine through FDOH-Osceola do not have to be Florida residents.”

Polk County

No reply was given at the time of press.

Seminole County

“Snowbirds are eligible pending they will be here in 28 days for the second dose.”

Sumter County

“The State Emergency Management stated that as long as any citizen, regardless of their residency in the U.S., can receive the vaccine from any location offering it. The vaccines are being provided by the federal government, so access is provided to U.S. citizens. The Florida Department of Health indicated to our Emergency Management Director that they are sharing this guidance with the local health departments this afternoon.”

Volusia County

“There is no residency requirement.”

About the Author:

Adrienne joined News 6's digital team in October 2016 to cover breaking news, crime and community interest stories. She graduated from the University of Central Florida and began her journalism career at the Orlando Sentinel.