What to Know
- Miami Mayor Francis Suarez wants priority for coronavirus vaccines to go to city residents
- Suarez said the planned vaccination site at Marlins Park hasn't opened yet because they're still waiting on doses
- Sen. Marco Rubio led bipartisan members of the Florida congressional delegation in sending a letter to Operation Warp Speed officials requesting it increase Florida’s vaccine allotment to account for seasonal residents
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is pushing for priority for the COVID-19 vaccine to go to residents of the city first.
Suarez introduced a pocket item at Thursday's commission meeting asking for the city manager's office and the city lawyer to take all legal steps to prevent non-residents from receiving the vaccine before the elderly population and the general population of the city.
"We're seeing a lot of high profile people who are in effect saying that they got priority over our residents," Suarez said. "Obviously whatever we do has to pass legal muster."
Suarez also said the planned vaccination site at Marlins Park hasn't opened yet because they're still waiting on doses. He said the state has allocated 4,500 doses for the site but they have yet to arrive.
In a statement, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told NBC 6 that she is also considering ways to prioritize local residents.
"My priority is our local residents, and we are working to make sure we get shots into the arms of people who live in Miami-Dade as fast as possible," the statement read.
But her office said the county "can't turn anyone away based on residence" because the current state policy allows people 65 and older to get vaccinated, regardless of where they live.
Florida was one of the first states to throw open vaccine eligibility to members of the general public over 65, leading to rumors that tourists and day-trippers are swooping in solely for the jab.
Earlier this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis said stories of people flying to Florida, getting vaccinated and returning home are overblown. While there have been scattered reports of such interlopers, DeSantis said the nonresidents who are getting shots are almost entirely "snowbirds," residents who live in the state for several months during the winter and who could infect others if they aren't vaccinated.
"I think it’s totally fine if they wanted to" be vaccinated, the governor said at a recent news conference. "It’s not like they’re just vacationing for two weeks. … They have relationships with doctors. They get medical care in Florida. … So that’s a little bit different than somebody that’s just doing tourism."
On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio led bipartisan members of the Florida congressional delegation in sending a letter to Operation Warp Speed officials requesting it increase Florida’s vaccine allotment to account for seasonal residents.
"In pursuit of an end to the pandemic and in the interest of the health of all individuals currently residing in Florida, the State of Florida has committed to vaccinate both residents and non-residents. Consequently, the vaccine is also currently available to all individuals over the age of 65 regardless of residency," the letter read, in part. "This has understandably put a strain on the limited allotment. In order for an effective level of vaccinations to occur in a timely and equitable manner, federal allocation allotments to states must ensure they account for all populations residing in a state, not just those that are residents."
DeSantis said Tuesday that there have been calls to vaccine registration hotlines from foreigners and residents of other states who want to travel to Florida only long enough to get the shots, but they are turned away.
Some short-time visitors do get vaccinated, although it is impossible to say how many. The Washington Post and New York Post reported last week that two wealthy New Jersey developers, brothers David and Bill Mack, used their connections with a nursing home to get themselves and members of their Palm Beach country club vaccinated without having to go through a hotline or website.
And Argentine television personality Yanina Latorre said in an online video that her 80-year-old mother got vaccinated in Miami-Dade County during their annual trip to South Florida. She praised Florida officials for allowing outsiders to get shots. She noted that there is no vaccine available in Argentina.
“I came to a country where the vaccine is legal for all people that are older than 65 years, and I got my mother vaccinated," Latorre said. “I didn’t do anything illegal.”
DeSantis' sentiment that snowbirds should be inoculated has been echoed by various officials statewide. Levine Cava said the part-time visitors are practically residents. Many own homes or rent, meaning they pay property taxes directly or indirectly, and pay sales taxes on their purchases.