Snowbirds that went to Florida this winter – despite Canada’s recommendation not to travel abroad during the pandemic – they discovered an unexpected advantage: they can apply to receive the COVID-19 vaccine months before it is available to older people in Canada.
Canadian snowbird Perry Cohen, 74, of Toronto, said he and his wife, Rose, 71, got the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Florida on Tuesday.
The couple is spending the winter in a condo owned by them in Deerfield Beach, Florida. On New Year’s Day, they were asked to sign up for a vaccination clinic installed in their gated community.
“I think we were in the right place at the right time,” said Cohen, adding that the two are scheduled to receive the accompanying dose of the vaccine in three weeks.
“What a beautiful way to start the new year.”
Unlike many other US states and Canadian provinces, Florida is offering COVID-19 vaccines to seniors 65 and older during the first phase of their vaccine implementation.
In addition, the state is allowing non-residents – including Canadian snowbirds – to receive the photo.
“Anyone who can prove they are 65 years of age or older is eligible to receive a free vaccine in Florida,” said the Florida Department of Health in an email to CBC News.
Those over 65 will continue to be prioritized for vaccination in Florida. By putting the elderly first, we are protecting a high-risk population from COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/A2Z9yBrSwM
Despite Canada’s call for Canadians to stay home during the pandemic, Cohen said he feels safe living inside his gated community in Florida. He also believes that if he had stayed in Toronto this winter, he would have to wait months to get the vaccine.
“I was imagining it from April to July, and then it came – it’s a bonus,” he said. “It fell into our lap.”
Although Ontario has also started administering the COVID-19 vaccine, elderly people who do not live in a care facility must wait until Phase 2 of implementation – currently scheduled between April and July. Meanwhile, the province faces growing criticism that their vaccine program is advancing at a slow pace.
Going to Florida for the vaccine
Florida’s vaccination program also faced criticism. Although the state started offering injections to seniors last month, there was complaints about long lines at vaccine centers and difficulties with prior scheduling due to high demand.
Snowbird Shelton Papple, 66, of Brantford, Ontario, said a Canadian couple in their gated community in Fort Myers got the vaccine on Tuesday. But Papple said the region is temporarily out of doses, so he will probably have to wait until next week, when supplies are replenished, to try to make an appointment.
“I’ll answer,” said a certain Papple. “I can see the carrot on the end of the stick.”
Toronto travel insurance broker Martin Firestone, who serves snowbirds, said about 50 of his clients who traveled to Florida this winter have already received their first dose of the vaccine or have an appointment.
“They are excited,” said Firestone, president of Travel Secure Inc. “Their attitude is, ‘I will probably wait until summer, at the very least'” in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that he was concerned about the slow pace implementation of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine and promised to address the problem.
Several countries have outgrown Canada’s vaccination efforts, including the United States. Although the USA has implemented its program slower than expected, the country still has vaccinated about four times as many people per capita than Canada.
So it may come as no surprise, said Firestone, that about 30 of his snowbird customers who previously decided not to travel to Florida this year due to the pandemic are now considering going, for the sole purpose of being vaccinated.
“It is the craziest reason to go to another country,” he said.
WATCH | Trudeau worried about the slow pace of the launch of the COVID-19 vaccine:
Firestone said he does not recommend traveling abroad now – not even to get the vaccine – because traveling during a pandemic carries risks.
He said that even if a traveler has adequate medical insurance, he can still face problems if he has an illness and hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients. COVID-19 infections and related deaths keep going up In the USA
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also does not recommend visitors to Florida to receive the vaccine.
“Someone just showing up and saying, ‘Give me a chance’ and then fly back somewhere – obviously we won’t be doing that,” he said at a press conference in Miami-Dade County on Monday.
“But for the seasonal residents who will be here, I think everything is fine.”
Canadian snowbirds in Arizona can also get the vaccine during their stay.
“Winter visitors can be vaccinated free of charge in Arizona,” said Holly Poynter, spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Health Services, by email.
She said the state should start vaccinating elderly people aged 75 and over in mid-January and those aged 65 to 74 by the end of February or early March.