MEMPHIS, Tenn. — You might not have heard of “vaccine tourism” until Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris brought it up on WREG Wednesday.
“Folks in Mississippi might come here. Vaccine tourism is real,” Harris said. “Folks in Arkansas may come here. Vaccine tourism is real. We want to accommodate as many people as possible.”
Commissioner Mick Wright was among the people watching, and he had not heard of “vaccine tourism” either. On the one hand, he can understand why some non-residents would get vaccinated in Shelby County.
“I do think it’s important we have workers in the healthcare field who come in from other communities so of course we all expected some people to come in from outside the county,” he said.
But on the other hand, he’s hearing concerning stories from constituents.
“People who were there with their elderly family members, grandparents. These are folks who had a reservation and they ended up waiting in line hours and some even after were sent away without receiving vaccine,” he said.
So that made him wonder if people are getting priority who shouldn’t be and why can’t they turn them away.
“To allow anyone else to jump the line is a disservice,” he said.
WREG asked Harris’s office Thursday if it’s already a widespread problem and if that’s why he mentioned it in our interview. His spokesperson has not responded.
In places like Florida, officials have passed residency requirements to get a vaccine. Wright said he wants to see how the rest of this week goes, but they might consider them in Shelby County as well.