Miami Herald

HHS tells Florida it won’t change vaccine allocation to account for snowbirds

- Alex Daugherty: 202-383-6049, @alextdaugh­erty

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.

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