MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As those 65 and older continue to line up COVID-19 vaccination sites in Miami-Dade and Broward, many have wondered why it’s not restricted to those living in South Florida or the state.
Barbara Sugarman was one of the lucky ones. She got an appointment for a vaccination before all the slots were filled. After receiving the first of the two required doses, she said she was thankful.
“I feel fantastic, absolutely fantastic. I am very excited. I have eight grandchildren and three daughters. I feel good and relieved,” she said.
Those who receive the first dose of the Moderna vaccine are given an appointment to receive the second dose.
Sugarman, of Coral Springs, said was struck by something she noticed before getting vaccinated.
“When you go to register, it doesn’t ask where you live, if you are a resident. It just asks what’s your birthday and your phone number and email,” she said.
That’s because, under state guidelines, there are no residency requirements.
“I don’t feel good about that. I think it’s denying Floridians a chance to get their shots. People are coming in from Venezuela, Argentina. I am not happy about that,” she said. “I’d rather people who live here get the shots. Let’s get everyone vaccinated that lives here, then worry about everyone else.”
Jennifer and James Melville of Kendall, who were not able to get an appointment for a vaccination, agree with Sugarman.
“I don’t feel good about it. It should be for us residents,” said 75-year-old James Melville.
“I don’t feel good that people are coming here from New York and getting shots and flying back to New York,” said Jennifer Melville.
But some feel vaccinating everyone regardless of where they live is the right thing to do.
A woman from Boca Raton, who did not want her name used in this report, said, “I think people should get vaccinated if they need it, like everybody does. I think it is the human thing to do.”
Carlos Migoya, the CEO of the Jackson Health System, echoed that sentiment. He said the hospital’s focus is to prevent the spread of coronavirus by vaccinating as many people as possible.
“Many of them have homes here so we are really taking care of our residents even though they are not officially residents of Florida they have homes in Florida,” he said.
Migoya told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “We have plenty of residents who have second and third homes here. The Governor’s theory and I concur with it is that many of these people need to be vaccinated.”
Migoya added, “The goal is to make sure if anyone is walking around South Florida and they happen to be COVID positive they are spreading the disease and if they happen to be over 65 they are the highest risk people in danger of getting the disease and perhaps dying from it.”
Migoya said Jackson Health System has taken steps to curb seniors from other countries trying to jump ahead of those from South Florida.
“We have prevented any international interests from coming into our system so that only those interested in getting appointments with us come from within the United States,” he said.
Broward Mayor Steve Geller is opposed to people coming here from other states or countries just to get the vaccine, but there are exceptions.
“If you have vulnerable seniors and they are here for three, four, five months I think it’s unreasonable to say they will not be provided vaccines even though they are not residents legally of Florida,” he said. “Certainly if they get ill from COVID they will end up using our hospitals and our goal is to prevent people from using our hospitals.”
Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis discouraged people from coming to Florida just to get the vaccine. Those that do must stay or plan on returning in four weeks to receive their second and final dose of the vaccine.