The slow vaccine rollout across Latin America combined with a surge in COVID-19 cases is pushing those with the means to travel to make their way to the United States for the COVID vaccine.
Elmer Estela, a business owner from Lima, is doing just that. It is not just any trip, but a life-or-death decision, he said. Estela and his family have spent $2,200 for three members of their family, including their 18-year-old daughter, to travel to Seattle to receive one of the three vaccines being offered in the U.S.
“This isn’t about the American dream,” said Estela. “This is about the vaccine dream.” Just like this Peruvian family, many Latin Americans are traveling to the U.S. with the same goal.
In January, Florida imposed ID restrictions at vaccination sites due to a sharp increase in foreigners making their way to the Sunshine State in hopes of being inoculated.
“You have people that live here six months, that’s fine. They use the hospitals here. They pay taxes,” said Governor Ron DeSantis when discussing the restrictions. “But to just kind of come in from another country or whatever, you know… we don’t support that and we’re not going to allow them.”
Argentinian public relations specialist Susannah Milano said that her country’s passport was sufficient identification for vaccination. “They didn’t ask for anything else,” said Milano.
The Peruvian Health Minister has been critical of those who travel, saying it reflects the country’s inequality. But Estela said it isn’t about money or social class, it’s about taking care of his family.
Estela has since received his shot and said he anxiously waits for the time his family gets to do the same.