This growth has been aided by the truth that since March 1, everybody over 16 has been eligible to get the vaccine within the Virgin Islands — so vacationers don’t even have to fret about reducing in line. The territory accommodates about 100 walk-ins every day, too. “Nowhere else within the U.S. are you able to really simply stroll in and get the vaccine, anyone over 16,” Mr. Bryan mentioned on Monday. On March 1, the islands additionally opened two federally supported group vaccination facilities on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
U.S. vacationers additionally face much less crimson tape when visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands in contrast with different Caribbean locations. If they submit a destructive coronavirus check inside 5 days of leaving for the territory, or a optimistic antibody check taken inside 4 months, they don’t have to quarantine upon arrival. Travelers to Jamaica and Barbados, in distinction, are requested to quarantine it doesn’t matter what. And U.S. vacationers can’t go to the Cayman Islands except they conform to strict eligibility standards.
Dr. Hunte-Ceasar mentioned that, at this level, the Department of Health didn’t take into account vaccine tourism to be an issue. “We undoubtedly wish to make sure the native residents get vaccinated,” she mentioned. But “we have now not had any shortages by serving each populations.” The Virgin Islands at the moment have 27,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 18,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine, and 600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine out there, mentioned Monife Stout, the division’s immunization director.
Noreen Michael, a scientist on the University of the Virgin Islands who research well being disparities, agreed that it was essential to make sure that vaccines can be found to residents who need them, however mentioned she had not seen proof to recommend that vacationers are taking vaccines away from residents who need them. “On the general public well being facet, it’s a plus,” she mentioned. “On the fairness facet, I don’t see it as important subject.”
Perhaps, too, vaccine tourism might be used as a pressure for good — to safe doses for marginalized teams in different areas. Although the Virgin Islands present free Covid-19 vaccines, the islands may cost vacationers for his or her vaccines, and the funds might be used to ship vaccines to areas that want them, mentioned Felicia Knaul, a world well being economist on the University of Miami. “Could we ship these vaccines to Jamaica, or to the Dominican Republic or Haiti?” she requested. “Once you’ve gotten previous the important thing welfare and human rights facets, if you should use that funding to pay for individuals who proper now don’t have any entry, I feel it’s value excited about.”
For now, well being authorities are centered on methods to scale back vaccine hesitancy within the territory. “People entry misinformation and perpetuate lies and issues which might be dangerous,” Dr. Hunte-Ceasar mentioned in a information convention final week. As a end result, the islands have been experiencing a surge in instances and hospitalizations that she mentioned give her “chest ache and heartburn each evening.” Although vaccine hesitancy does appear to be reducing, residents might want to begin broadly embracing the vaccine if the islands are to fulfill their objective of vaccinating 50,000 Virgin Islanders by July 1.
In the meantime, guests from the continental U.S. will proceed to reap the benefits of the additional doses. Some have stayed longer than they deliberate, too — and have even contemplated transferring to the islands for good.
“I began falling in love with the tradition of St. Croix,” mentioned Hemal Trivedi, a documentary filmmaker who lives in Weehawken, N.J., and was vaccinated in St. Croix in February. “Toward the tip of the journey, we had been really in search of a spot to purchase.”