While some Americans are still opposed to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, one New York couple was sure they wanted to get it as soon as it became available to them.

Phil and Roberta Rice are from Delmar, New York, just outside of Albany. The retired teachers are both over 70 years old, and while they would normally be spending the winter in Florida, this year brought different plans for the couple amidst the COVID pandemic.

The Rices told Times Union they knew they wanted to get the vaccine as soon as it became available to them, but they weren't sure where to get it until Florida became one of the first states to open eligibility to people over 65. While the Rices have had their home down south for years, Florida currently doesn't require residency to get the vaccine.

"We were up in the air," Phil Rice told Times Union. "So when we saw that it looked more likely that we’d be able to get it in Florida much sooner, maybe even months sooner, we decided to go for it."

As soon as it opened at noon on January 4, the Rices started calling the number to make vaccination appointments in Lee County, Florida, just north of their second home in Naples.

"Thank goodness for that re-dial button," Phil Rice told Times Union. "We got everything from busy signals to notices that the number was not in service to this number is not answering. We just kept going."

Finally, the Rices reached a line that asked them to leave a callback number, so they did. They told Times Union that four hours later, they received a call that they had snagged two of approximately 5,000 vaccination appointments in the county that week.

They flew down to Florida and got their first doses of the vaccine on January 7, and flew back to New York on Monday, although they plan on riding out the rest of the winter--and getting their second dose of the vaccine--down south.

"I think more than anything else it’s peace of mind," Phil Rice told Times Union. "The vaccine will make it much less likely that we will become ill and hopefully we may be able to spend a little more time with our family. But I don’t think it’s going to mean we stop wearing masks and social distancing. I think we’ll continue to do those things until more people have gotten the vaccine."

 

While Phil Rice told Times Union he feels bad that not everyone is in the same situation as he and his wife to travel for the vaccine, he discourages people with no connection to Florida from flying down just to get the vaccine.

New York wound up widening eligibility to include the Rices' age group on Tuesday, but Times Union reports that the decision was so sudden and unexpected that any available appointments quickly became booked.

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