BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana expanded the list of who could get a COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.
But there are some people who are so desperate to get in line, they’re turning to online groups and even heading out of state for something officials are calling ‘vaccine tourism.’
‘Vaccine tourists are people who want to take advantage of another state’s vaccine requirements, like Mississippi.
In that state, anyone 16 to 64 years old can get a vaccine if they have a chronic health condition that puts them at high risk for COVID-19, and that list includes smokers.
But a few people from Louisiana are now looking out of the state, to see if they can get their hands on a vaccine.
“If caught Covid, it’s pretty well been determined medically that it probably would’ve taken a miracle,” said 66-year-old Glenda Foster of Baton Rouge.
Foster has congestive heart failure, diabetes, asthma and COPD.
She says she couldn’t wait any longer for Louisiana to lower it’s age requirements for the vaccine, so she went online and found an appointment in Mississippi where the age requirement was lower, and took a drive.
“And I actually captured an appointment in Monticello Mississippi for Wednesday, which was yesterday. Two hours from Baton Rouge, drove up, they don’t ask what state you are from, they just want to know how far you’d come. And I told them Baton Rouge, and they said well that’s a good ride,” said Foster.
58-year-old Maria Gallagher of Metairie has a similar story, she has a heart condition, and other co-morbidities like pre-diabetes.
“As soon as we filled out the questionnaire, we didn’t lie about anything. We said everything, we said where we lived, everything was on the up and up. And in the end when you finish answering questions, it pops up locations that are available. So it said Biloxi, so we hopped on that as soon as we could,” said Gallagher.
Gallagher says she’s well below Louisiana’s age requirement but was scared to wait.
“You know I have issues that if I get sick, I could die. And I can’t sit around and wait for Louisiana to get their stuff together,” she said.
“There was an appointment that opened up probably because of a cancellation I think, the next day at 9 o’ clock in the morning. So I hopped in the car at 6:30 in the morning, drove up to Hattiesburg, and got the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine,” said Jaymie Wolfe of Gretna.
Wolfe is 59-years-old and is a diabetic, and has hypertension.
She says she understands Louisiana’s regulations, but saw a chance to protect her health by getting vaccinated sooner in Mississippi, so she took it.
“It was utterly worth it, even with just the first shot, I really felt like this thing is going down. We are going to beat this thing, and we are going to be victorious over this ridiculous virus that has been disrupting our lives,” Said Wolfe.
Mississippi health officials aren’t really encouraging the so called ‘vaccine tourism.’
But so far there’s been little to stop people from trying.
WAFB asked Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health about people getting vaccines in other states.
“I think, if you look at the numbers, we’ve administered a greater percentage of the vaccine available to us than Mississippi has. So there’s probably more daylight in the vaccine available in Mississippi. I can’t comment on what their states policies are, and I can’t I guess fault anyone for trying to get vaccinated. All I would ask is that for people getting vaccinated in Louisiana, be honest, be a good neighbor, and don’t gam the system,” said Kanter.
A spokesperson with the Mississippi State Department of Health says the vaccines are for people who live and work there.
But a lot of people are testing their luck, and have been successful, and they haven’t been stopped from getting vaccines elsewhere.
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