Vaccine tourism: International travelers seeking COVID-19 vaccines in Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. — 9 Investigates has discovered Florida is becoming a vaccination destination for people in other countries.

Some Central Florida COVID-19 vaccination sites are reporting more tourists showing up than locals.

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When Governor Ron DeSantis came under fire for allowing non-residents to get vaccinated in Florida while supplies were still limited, he started requiring proof of residency for a shot.

That requirement has since been lifted, and now, travelers from around the world are heading to Orlando to catch the attractions, and avoid catching a virus that’s killed millions.

Orange County health officials say they’re starting to track where these vaccine tourists are coming from, and while they don’t have precise data compiled, they say their vaccination sites have seen people from Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Canada, Argentina, Peru, and the United Kingdom.

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“I don’t think that  everyone that comes from outside will declare truly that they are from outside,” Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino says. “I don’t know how reliable the data is, but is it happening? Yes.”

Dr. Pino says he has no concerns about vaccine tourism.

The Centers for Disease Control requires a negative COVID-19 test before entering the United States, so Dr. Pino says he is not worried about travelers bringing COVID variants to the area either.

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Dr. Pino recommends the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine for tourists, so they don’t have to return for a second shot.

However, some travelers have said they’re willing to pay for a return trip weeks later for a more effective vaccine.