ORLANDO, Fla. – Anyone hoping to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in the Sunshine State moving forward must reside in Florida at least part time, according to health officials.
The new requirement was discussed Tuesday morning during a call with emergency management officials from the state, according to Seminole County Emergency Management Director Alan Harris.
“That’s the story of the day. 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.”
The change is in an effort to stop what’s being called “vaccine tourism,” when people flock to one state from others to get vaccinated then return home after receiving a shot.
Previously, all Florida vaccine sites were open to anyone in the priority groups -- frontline health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities and seniors age 65 and older -- regardless of state or county residency.
Beginning Wednesday, vaccine distributors will no longer be allowed to administer COVID-19 vaccines to people from out of state without proof they live in, own or rent a home in Florida. A driver’s license, utility bill or other form of proof must be shown before inoculation, according to Harris.
Gov. Ron DeSantis also mentioned the requirement during a news conference in Cape Coral on Tuesday.
“You got to live here, you know, either full time or at least part time,” DeSantis said.
The change comes on the heels of another tweak in the state’s efforts to get Florida’s most vulnerable vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
After three weeks of chaos during Florida’s rollout of vaccines to its most vulnerable residents, Florida’s director of emergency management said on Jan. 14 a statewide appointment system for COVID vaccinations should be ready within weeks, however, an immediate timeline for that portal was not available.
Residents who are among the first priority groups should continue to check their local health department websites for information on appointments and where inoculations are occurring.
As the state receives more doses, more individuals will qualify among the first vaccine priority groups. Next up will be frontline workers, such as grocery store employees, teachers and police, according to DeSantis.
Floridians are asked to be patient as county health departments roll out vaccination plans for millions of residents who meet the age qualifications. The state is home to more than 4 million people 65 and older.
The vaccine is not expected to be available to the general population, including younger residents or non-frontline workers, until late spring.
So far, 1,031,795 people have been vaccinated in Florida, according to the latest data from the Florida Department of Health, with more than 36,000 shots administered to those from out of state. The FDOH also reports that 93,258 people have received their second shot. However, 45,056 people are overdue for their second vaccination.
Harris said that anyone who received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose in Seminole County will be grandfathered in and will be able to receive their second dose in the same place but that starting Wednesday, health officials will be cracking down on the residency requirement.