When Louisiana first started doling out COVID-19 vaccines, they were limited to people age 70 and up. But next door in Mississippi, they've been available for anyone 65 and up, and for younger people with chronic health conditions.
So Chanel Maronge, a 37-year-old Baton Rouge, Louisiana, resident with hypertension, got in her car and drove an hour and a half across the state line to get her shot. She's among 5,300 out-of-staters who've been vaccinated in Mississippi so far, and one of thousands more people across the country who've traveled to other states with looser rules to get vaccinated, The New York Times reports.
Most states, including Mississippi, require people to either live or work in the state to be vaccinated there. But as a Mississippi health department spokesperson told the Times, health care workers won't ask for proof of residency before giving out a shot. The same is true in Georgia, which is giving out shots to anyone 65 and older, while neighboring states reserve them for older patients. Complications have also come up in New England, where age limits and rules on which professions count as essential vary between the small, easily traversable states, the Boston Globe reports. Rhode Island, for example, still hasn't expanded eligibility beyond health care and essential workers, leading some people to travel to Massachusetts for vaccines.
The confusion all stems from how the federal government set up COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the first place. With states told to make their own eligibility rules, there's no consistency between neighbors. And while states are increasingly creating rules to give their vaccine stock only to state residents and workers, most states say no one will be turned away even if they produce an out-of-state ID or no identification at all. Read more at The New York Times.