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American expats returning to US to get COVID-19 shots

Americans living abroad are returning back to the United States to receive their coronavirus vaccinations amid frustrations with delays in rollouts of the shots across the globe. 

Several Americans are opting to make the trip back to the U.S. rather than wait for a shot in places like Europe, where the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this month said the vaccine rollouts have been "unacceptably slow." 

Distribution issues have been compounded with the temporary suspension in several countries of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University following concerns over rare blood clots. 

While a safety committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) earlier this month urged that the benefits of getting the AstraZeneca shot outweigh the potential risks, noting there was a "possible link" between the vaccine and brain blood clots, a number of countries have recommended against the shot for younger age groups, which have seen the majority of blood clots cases.

This week, Denmark became the first European country to permanently halt its distribution of the AstraZeneca shot after the country's health agency said the vaccine "showed real and serious side effects." 

Chloe Zeitounian, a 32-year-old American actor living in London, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Saturday that she decided to travel to the U.S. earlier this month to avoid the AstraZeneca shot, which has not been approved for emergency use in the U.S.

"I've definitely seen people talk about vaccine tourism," Zeitounian said. "That's basically what I did." 

Zeitounian, who received a dose of the Moderna vaccine and plans to return for the second dose on a business trip later this year if she doesn't get it in the U.K. first, is one of several expats noted by the Journal who decided to come to the U.S. after President Biden set April 19 as the date all U.S. adults would be eligible to receive the vaccine. 

Cheryl Walling, a 61-year-old retiree in Spain, said of her fellow citizens in Arizona, "They're getting vaccinated right and left." 

"I'm jealous. I'm so jealous," Walling told the Journal. 

Meanwhile, some Americans living abroad are hesitant to return to the U.S. for fear that it will complicate them receiving "vaccine passports" in their countries of residence. 

This comes as conservatives in the U.S. have argued against requiring vaccine passports, claiming that they infringe on people's right to privacy and choice to get vaccinated, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) earlier this month issuing an executive order banning coronavirus vaccine passport requirements in the state. 

As of Friday, about 24 percent of the U.S. population, or roughly 80 million people, has been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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