The variety of rules for COVID-19 vaccine priority is attracting outsiders to travel across state lines for a shot

People waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine wait in their cars as workers for the Florida Department of Health in Broward direct cars at the drive-thru vaccination site at Vista View Park on January 04, 2021 in Davie, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

It’s the newest form of travelling during the pandemic: crossing state lines — or international waters — in hopes of getting the vaccine.

At the beginning of the US vaccine rollout, essential workers and people 75 and older were the first groups with priority access.

Now, the US includes more than 50 vaccination plans as each state has devised its own rules around who gets priority for a dose, according to The Guardian.

In New Jersey, smokers can receive the vaccine before teachers do — and proof that you’re a smoker is not required. In New York, psychologists and psychiatrists can get the vaccine along with essential workers.

As regulations change on who can get the vaccine and when they can get it, Americans are travelling near and far to get it.

Florida is a popular vaccine tourism destination due to the high priority given to those aged 65 and older in addition to other vague eligibility requirements that attracted travellers from all over to take advantage of Florida’s vaccine rollout.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a press conference earlier this month that most of these visitors are in fact part-time residents, not so-called “vaccine tourists.”

“If they have a residence and they’re not just kind of flying by night for a week or two, I’m totally fine with that,” DeSantis said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “That’s a little bit different than somebody that’s just doing tourism and trying to come here. So we’re discouraging people to come to Florida just to get a vaccine.”

Vaccine-seekers have flocked to Florida from Canada and Argentina, as well as New York and other states, according to the Journal. However, the state last week pushed back on international vaccine tourists with a public health advisory from the surgeon general that requires proof of state residency to get a shot.

The trend has sparked some big spending from those who travel internationally in hopes of securing a shot.

Gem Tours & Travels, an Indian travel agency, announced $US2,000 tours to the US including a vaccine shot, NBC News reported.

Zenith Holidays, based in Kolkata, allows customers to fill out a registration form under the “Vaccine Tourism” tab on their website. The company says that within an hour of your response, a member of their support team will get back to you.

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Customers looking to travel with Zenith Holidays for a vaccine shot can fill out this registration form under the ‘Vaccine Tourism’ tab on their website. Zenith Holidays

Yanina Latorre, an Argentinian TV personality, said on Instagram on January 7 she was able to get her mother vaccinated at Miami Gardens’s Hard Rock Stadium during their family vacation. The post came before the state’s surgeon general proof of residency order, but NBC Miami reported the post provoked some frustration from residents.

Janelle Brind, vice president of Momentum Jets — a private jet service provider in Toronto, told the Journal she’s seen interest from Canadians looking to travel to the US for vaccines.

“We’re getting requests now from clients that are willing to fly into Florida if they have an appointment, and then fly home again on the same day,” said Brind, who projected costs for a charter flight range from $US25,000 to $US80,000 for a same-day round trip.