You no longer have to live in some states to get vaccinated there
By Madeleine Ngo and Christina Morales
As the U.S. supply of COVID-19 vaccines continues to grow and states plan to meet or beat President Joe Biden’s April 19 deadline for expanding eligibility to all adults, some states have begun dropping one of the last barriers to vaccine access: residency rules.
New Hampshire and Oklahoma are the latest states to announce they will open up vaccine eligibility to nonresidents. Experts hope that more will soon follow suit as the production and distribution of vaccines ramps up.
The United States is giving out about 3.1 million shots a day, an increase from roughly 2 million in early March. The push remains urgent as dangerous variants of the coronavirus circulate and the country reports a sharp rise in new cases, with an average of almost 68,000 a day over the past week, according to a New York Times database.
In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, said Wednesday that officials were confident that there would be enough shots to vaccinate out-of-state residents by April 19, the deadline that Biden set for universal adult eligibility, which all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have said they will meet. Sununu said New Hampshire was “well ahead” of that deadline after making all state residents 16 or older eligible for a vaccine April 2.
The change came after Sununu faced criticism from students and Democratic lawmakers for not allowing out-of-state college students to get vaccinated in New Hampshire. He said this month that residents had to “come first” and that college students were at lower risk compared with older people.
In addition to college students, moves like the one in New Hampshire make it easier to vaccinate other people with floating residency statuses, such as those who commute to work across state lines, said Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
This is especially relevant for places like Kansas City, Missouri — which sits on the edge of Missouri and borders Kansas — or metropolitan areas like New York, Philadelphia or Chicago whose suburbs stretch well into neighboring states. Hotez said he expected, and hoped, that more states would lift these restrictions soon.
“As we have more vaccine supply, I think we need to liberalize restrictions as much as possible,” he said, adding: “Remember how this works. The virus does not recognize state boundaries.”
About 49% of New Hampshire’s population of about 1.4 million has received at least one shot, the highest portion out of any state, according to a New York Times vaccine tracker.
Oklahoma began allowing nonresidents to get vaccinated in the state Thursday, nearly two weeks after it expanded eligibility to all in-state residents 16 or older.
About 35% of Oklahoma’s population has received at least one shot,.
More than half the states and the District of Columbia still have residency requirements for vaccination, although most allow exceptions for workers employed in that state who live in another, according to a vaccine tracker from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on national health issues.
Jennifer Kates, a senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said more states were likely to open vaccines to all.