NYC's welcoming vaccine sites draw tourists from abroad

Diego Rano, a tourist from Colombia, headed right over to Times Square's vaccination site after he heard about New York City's drop-in program on the news on Thursday.

"We decided to come here, we just Googled it," Rano said. "Here we are — I got the shot." 

Andres Cirrillo, also from Colombia, traveled to Miami for his shot in May, and is now in New York on vacation with his family.

"We just were waiting for it and once we got our chances, we did it," Cirrillo said.

Rano and Cirrillo are just the latest examples of so-called vaccine tourists who have touched down across the country from as close as Latin America to as far as China since the vaccines became widely available in the United States this spring.

To offset vaccine scarcity abroad, President Joe Biden's administration has pledged to send 500 million doses around the world. This week, the administration committed 3 million Moderna shots to both Guatemala and Argentina.

Still, Mayor Bill de Blasio at his daily briefing said the city's open-door vaccination policy he announced in May remains aimed at domestic, not international, tourists.

"For people visiting from other countries, there are legal issues and protocols that are different if they're citizens of other countries," de Blasio said. "We of course will follow any of those legal protocols."

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The federal government requires foreign nationals from most countries to take a COVID-19 test three days prior to traveling to the United States and show their negative result to the airline before boarding the plane.

But once here in the city, all a visitor must do is show proof of age to get a shot at the city-run sites, which, along with private chains like CVS and Walgreens, don't require proof of citizenship or residency.

The city, however, does not keep track of how many so-called vaccine tourists have come to New York City from abroad.

"We do track on our Health Department website the numbers of people who were vaccinated who were New York City residents and those who were non-New York City, but we don't further distinguish," New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Choksi said. "But the vast majority of non-New York City people who have been vaccinated in our city are from the United States."