This increase 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 slicing 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 purple tape when visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands in contrast with different Caribbean locations. In the event that they submit a unfavorable coronavirus take a look at inside 5 days of leaving for the territory, or a constructive antibody take a look at taken inside 4 months, they don’t have to quarantine upon arrival. Vacationers 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 until they conform to strict eligibility criteria.
Dr. Hunte-Ceasar mentioned that, at this level, the Division of Well being didn’t think about vaccine tourism to be an issue. “We positively need to make sure the native residents get vaccinated,” she mentioned. However “we have now not had any shortages by serving each populations.” The Virgin Islands at present have 27,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 18,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine, and 600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine obtainable, mentioned Monife Stout, the division’s immunization director.
Noreen Michael, a scientist on the College 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 problem.”
Maybe, too, vaccine tourism may very well be used as a power for good — to safe doses for marginalized teams in different areas. Though the Virgin Islands present free Covid-19 vaccines, the islands might cost vacationers for his or her vaccines, and the funds may very well be used to ship vaccines to areas that want them, mentioned Felicia Knaul, a global well being economist on the College of Miami. “May we ship these vaccines to Jamaica, or to the Dominican Republic or Haiti?” she requested. “When you’ve gotten previous the important thing welfare and human rights elements, if you should utilize that funding to pay for individuals who proper now don’t have any entry, I believe it’s value fascinated with.”
For now, well being authorities are targeted on methods to cut back vaccine hesitancy within the territory. “Individuals entry misinformation and perpetuate lies and issues which might be dangerous,” Dr. Hunte-Ceasar mentioned in a information convention final week. Because of this, the islands have been experiencing a surge in circumstances and hospitalizations that she mentioned give her “chest ache and heartburn each night time.” Though vaccine hesitancy does appear to be reducing, residents might want to begin broadly embracing the vaccine if the islands are to fulfill their aim of vaccinating 50,000 Virgin Islanders by July 1.
Within 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 shifting 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. “Towards the tip of the journey, we had been really searching for a spot to purchase.”