Canadian snowbirds getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida face backlash from some residents

The story has made nationwide headlines in the U.S.: Foreigners 65 and older in Florida, including Canadian snowbirds, are offered the COVID-19 vaccine.

Some snowbirds that traveled to Florida this winter – despite Canada’s advice not to travel overseas during the pandemic – are counting their lucky stars as they could wait months to get the shot in Canada. However, some locals who argue that non-Floridians shouldn’t get early access to vaccines, which are currently in short supply, are also facing a backlash.

“We’re first. Come to the end of the line if you want to come,” Florida-based Judy Allen told an NBC local television station on Friday at a vaccination clinic in Sanford, Florida, north of Orlando.

A week earlier, Canadian snowbirds Andrew Paton, 75, and his wife Jill, 74, received their first dose of vaccine at a residential clinic in Palm City, Florida, where they own a home. They will succeed on February 4th.

“I’m just glad I got it,” said Andrew Paton, who is from Toronto. “Our American friends are thrilled. We’re part of this community. Let’s all vaccinate if we can.”

But not everyone is on the side. A few days after the gunshot, Paton said someone posted a letter to his condominium board complaining about Canadian residents being offered the vaccine.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “We don’t take it for anyone. Anyone in this community who wanted one could get one.”

Canadian snowbirds Andrew and Jill Paton each received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on January 7th in Palm City, Florida. (Andrew Paton)

Unlike Canada, Florida is offering COVID-19 vaccinations to everyone aged 65 and over in the first phase of the vaccine roll out. While the state discourages visitors from coming specifically to take the picture, seasonal residents are welcome to sign up.

This policy has particularly angered some Floridians who have not yet received a vaccination appointment due to a slower than planned rollout.

“They’re taking it from people who are before them … it’s not their stash,” said Clare Archer, 67, of Englewood Isles, Florida, south of Tampa.

Clare Archer, 67, of Englewood Isles, Florida, says she couldn’t book an appointment because of a lack of vaccines. (CBC / Zoom)

Archer is a dual Canadian-American citizen who grew up in northern Ontario and has lived in Florida for 25 years. She said that due to the shortage of vaccines in her area, neither she nor her husband had made an appointment.

And although she has Canadian roots, Archer said she disapproves of snowbirds who both travel to Florida during a pandemic and get the vaccine before some Floridians.

“There is no way you should be here,” she said. “It’s more than annoying.”

CLOCK | Why Canada’s Vaccine Adoption Is So Slow:

The provinces stand behind the goals of getting the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of Canadians and experts say the logistical challenges are largely to blame, but hope that the introduction of the Moderna vaccine will speed things up. 3:22

Some Florida politicians are angry too. Last week, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced that he was trying to revise the rules so that permanent Miami residents would not be the last to receive the vaccine.

And on January 10, one of the state’s US Senators, Rick Scott, stated on Twitter, “Vaccines must go to Floridians first.”

This is deeply worrying. Vaccines must go to the Floridians first, from our health workers and frontline workers to the most vulnerable populations. This week I asked for answers from @ HealthyFla and more information on vaccine distribution in Florida: https://t.co/ASBzKoMnh7 https://t.co/FcWFfmk5jP

– @ SenRickScott

It is up to each US state to decide who will be given priority during the introduction of the vaccine. In a press conference earlier this month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis explained why he does not turn away seasonal residents who meet the current age requirements.

“We’re a temporary condition,” he said. “People who are here four or five months a year, they have relationships with doctors, they get medical care in Florida.”

Canadian snowbirds on Good Morning America

Visitors to Florida getting the vaccine have become such a hot topic that popular TV show Good Morning America covered the topic on a news segment on Friday.

“Residents across America – even Canada and Argentina – are flocking to Florida … leading to what some call vaccine tourism,” the segment said.

The story featured the Canadian snowbirds Shelton and Karen Papple from Brantford, Ont. The couple traveled to their Fort Myers home before Florida announced their vaccination schedules, and they are both due to receive their first dose on Monday.

Papple, 66, told CBC News He has no qualms about getting vaccinated in Florida.

“We live here, we pay taxes,” he said. “We’re all in it together. It’s a world problem and everyone should join forces.”

Canadian snowbirds Shelton and Karen Papple were interviewed Friday for a news segment on Good Morning America covering the distribution of vaccines in the United States, including Florida. (ABCs Good Morning America)

He said he also believes reports of Canadians flocking to the state to get the vaccine are exaggerated because there are many hurdles. In addition to securing a vaccine appointment, you must take a negative COVID-19 test prior to traveling to Florida (effective January 26). Stay in Florida for up to a month to receive the second dose. received another negative COVID-19 test before returning to Canada; and quarantine for 14 days after your return.

But some Canadians are still ready to make the trip.

Toronto’s Travel Secure travel insurance broker Martin Firestone said about 100 of its Snowbird customers who originally decided not to travel to Florida this winter because of the pandemic are now planning to travel to the state to get vaccinated.

However, these are not “vaccine tourism” cases, he said, as his clients plan to stay for the remainder of the winter.

“They all own property and are really just exercising their right to go to a state that offers vaccines,” said Firestone.

Papple suggests that the backlash against foreigners like him who get the shot will calm down as Florida secures and distributes more cans.

“The more people are vaccinated, the more boring the story becomes.”

To speed up the rollout, the state is now offering vaccination shots in a large chain of state pharmacies. And more than a dozen federal lawmakers representing Florida, including Senator Marco Rubio, have asked federal officials to improve Florida’s vaccine supply to accommodate the large number of seasonal residents.

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