HHS tells Florida it won’t change vaccine allocation to account for snowbirds
The Department of Health and Human Services declined to change the allocation of COVID-19 vaccines to account for the thousands of seasonal residents who move to Florida during the winter months.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s office received a letter from the HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, Robert Kadlec, on Monday after Rubio and 17 of the state’s 27 U.S. House members, including Republicans and Democrats, said the influx of “snowbirds” strained the supply of vaccines.
Operation Warp Speed’s “vaccine allocation was determined pro-rata, based on each jurisdiction’s population,” wrote Kadlec in a letter shared with the Miami Herald. “We encourage state and local officials with populations who travel from across the country to coordinate their distribution plans.”
Rubio lambasted HHS’ decision.
“The Department of Health and Human Services’ response to my request for additional vaccines to account for Florida’s seasonal residents is ridiculous,” Rubio said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “The expectation that our state should try to snatch vaccines from other states is stupid and only serves to punish Florida. The administration should recognize the seasonal population and increase vaccines for Florida.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and the Florida Department of Health, 4.7 million doses have been administered in the state through Feb. 28, and 15% of the population has received at least one dose, a percentage identical to the national average. Florida has used about 80% of the vaccines sent to the state from the federal government, just above the national average of 78%.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he supports vaccinations for snowbirds who relocate to the state for months at a time but he does not encourage international “vaccine tourists” who come to Florida for the purpose of getting inoculated.