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State Surgeon General Issues New Rule To Curb COVID Vaccine Tourism 

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In an effort to curb COVID vaccine tourism, the state surgeon general has issued a new Florida residency rule.

The rule change came down late Thursday afternoon, hours after Miami Mayor Francis Suarez spoke with CBS4's Peter D'Oench about stopping vaccine tourism.

"I have been very clear on this issue," Suarez told CBS4's Peter D'Oench prior to the announcement. "I am completely against vaccine tourism. You know what I mean, people coming from other countries to get vaccinated before the most vulnerable in our community and the general population. I have absolutely no problem if the federal government continues to give us vaccines and reimburses us. We have done that. That's what we do as a country. That is who we are as a city and we have always been extremely welcoming to people from different parts of the world."

People from as far away as Argentina and Canada have flocked to South Florida solely for the purpose of getting a coveted vaccination.

"We can't give them a priority over people who are here day in and day out because this is a health crisis and people are dying and so for me this will never be acceptable in this city," Suarez said.

For weeks, some seniors have told CBS4 that they are worried about the limited supply of vaccines and they have been opposed to the vaccinations going to people who do not live here.

At Tropical Park earlier this month, James Melville of Kendall said, "It should be us first, and citizens and residents first."

Barbara Sugarman of Coral Springs said, "I think it denies Floridians the chance to get their shots. Let's get everyone vaccinated who lives in this state first and then worry about everybody else."

According to new data from the Florida Department of Health, of more than 1.1 million vaccinated so far, 39,000 live out of state. That's about 4% of the total.

Miami city commissioners last week passed an ordinance requiring that homebound seniors involved in a new vaccine program must live in the city. But there was no residency requirements in Miami for those making appointments for vaccines at Tropical Park.

But now under Scott Rivkees' new rule, vaccine recipients must be "able to demonstrate residency" or be in the state "providing health care services involving direct contact with patients."


The Buenos Aires newspaper "Clarin" recently found that a dozen wealthy Argentinians traveled to Miami for the vaccine. Argentina TV personality Yanina LaTorre also recently posted video on Instagram showing her elderly mother getting vaccinated in Miami. And one celebrity lawyer from Argentina also reportedly got vaccinated while visiting this state. CBS News reached out to both women but has not heard back.

Martin Firestone is a travel insurance broker in Toronto, Canada, where the vaccine is not expected until this fall. Many of his clients usually spend the winter months in Florida.

He said, "They had no intention of going down this year. Only when the vaccine became available and when they heard from friends in the community that they got their first shot, they were told why don't you come on down and that promoted them to head down there. Their attitude was almost like winning the lottery."

CBS News also reported that travel agencies in India are reportedly marketing a vaccine travel package. For a few thousand dollars, tourists can get round trip tickets to the U.S. and a shot.

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