Covid-19: is there a vaccination tourism in Miami?

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The images show long lines of older adults waiting to be vaccinated against covid, in Miami Dade, Florida.

The state, like the rest of the country, planned a vaccination sequence in which health professionals and health professionals were placed first. seniors.

But, unlike other areas, Governor Ron DeSantis determined through an executive order that not only the elderly who live in assisted living homes and residences should be vaccinated against covid, but everyone 65 years of age or older.

This order, which does not specify whether the elderly must be a resident of the state to receive the vaccine, opened the game of immunization to literally everyone: tourists are traveling from other parts of the United States, and even from Latin America and Canada to receive the vaccines. dose.

Is everyone who comes to the state and gets vaccinated 65 or over? This is being investigated because there have been complaints that what has been developed is “vaccination tourism.”

Florida’s goal, like all states, is to vaccinate the entire population. But It is public that the doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are the ones being administered in the United States, are already low.

This has sparked controversy over the practice in Florida. Is it ethical to vaccinate nonresidents when all older adults living in the state have not yet been vaccinated? Should foreigners be vaccinated even if they meet the age requirement?

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Daniela Levine-Cava, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, said in a statement that her priority is to “vaccinate all county residents as soon as possible.”

The announcement from Governor DeSantis’s office was released almost without warning, leaving health centers organizing with limited doses and floods of phone calls.

The Jackson Health System, one of the county’s largest health care systems, said it is not turning away anyone 65 or older who lives in Florida for a few months or is on vacation, even if they arrive from another country.

In a statement, system authorities said that “regardless of where a person lives, if they spend time in our community, on our beaches, restaurants and shopping centers, they can spread the virus.”

A case that sounded on social networks was that of the Argentine animator Yanina Latorre, who brought her mother (who meets the age requirement) to Miami from Argentina to get vaccinated. He showed a video on social networks that fueled the controversy.

Apparently, tourists do not only come from Latin America. There are charters arriving from Toronto, Canada, with seniors looking to get immunized and go home the same day. Prices for these “health flights” range from $ 25,000 to $ 80,000, Canadian charter company Momentum Jet told The Wall Street Journal.

Florida is the second state in the country with the most seniors, after Maine. They are 4.5 million and represent 20.5% of the total population.

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Jason Mahon, acting director of communications for the Florida Department of Health, said any allegations of mismanagement of the covid vaccine will be investigated. “We ask that all suspicious incidents be reported. We are not going to allow someone to come to get vaccinated and leave the next day.

However, it does not seem to be such an easy process. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the two currently being administered in the United States, require two doses, which are administered three and four weeks apart, which means that the person must remain in the state for that time.

The state government said it is emphasizing that foreigners who get the vaccine understand that they must stay in the state to receive the second dose.

Florida, and particularly Miami, has a strong bond with Latin America. Many entrepreneurs from the region, especially from Argentina, Mexico and Colombia, have businesses and temporary homes in Miami, where in normal times they travel several times a year.

Thousands have relatives in Miami, and the city is like their second home.

However, beyond the questions of access and privilege, there is another question that, like so many others related to covid, science still cannot answer:

Does the vaccine protect if a different strain circulates in the country of origin?

In the year in which the new coronavirus has circulated in the world, it has already mutated (changed in shape and composition) dozens of times, generating at least two or three mutations that are 50% more contagious.

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Although rapid studies have determined that the vaccines that are already being administered would protect against all the covid mutations that have been classified so far, this is not an absolute truth.

For example, the flu vaccine given in the Northern Hemisphere is not effective in the Southern Hemisphere, because a different strain of influenza circulates in that region.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed in a statement that current covid vaccines are widely effective against all strains of the coronavirus.

But, the history of virology shows that the reality of covid vaccines could change.

According to public health records posted on the state Department of Health website, 4% of the 650,000 people who have already been vaccinated (about 26,000) do not reside in Florida.

The opinions of Florida residents regarding vaccination criteria are mixed. Some think that immunization of those permanently living in the state should be prioritized. Others, however, think that it is not wrong to apply the criterion of “vaccines for all”.

In short, it is known that if there are more people vaccinated there will be a greater “herd immunity”, a huge shield that will be a key piece to end the pandemic.

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