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 chopping in line. The territory accommodates about 100 walk-ins every day, too. “Nowhere else within the U.S. are you able to truly 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 neighborhood vaccination facilities on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
U.S. vacationers additionally face much less pink tape when visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands in contrast with different Caribbean locations. In the event that they submit a detrimental coronavirus check inside 5 days of leaving for the territory, or a constructive antibody check 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 standards.
Dr. Hunte-Ceasar mentioned that, at this level, the Division of Well being didn’t contemplate vaccine tourism to be an issue. “We positively wish to make sure the native residents get vaccinated,” she mentioned. However “we’ve got 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 out there, 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 counsel 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 concern.”
Maybe, too, vaccine tourism could possibly be used as a pressure for good — to safe doses for marginalized teams in different areas. Though the Virgin Islands present free Covid-19 vaccines, the islands may cost vacationers for his or her vaccines, and the funds could possibly 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 need to use that funding to pay for individuals who proper now haven’t any entry, I believe it’s value serious about.”
For now, well being authorities are centered on methods to scale back vaccine hesitancy within the territory. “Individuals entry misinformation and perpetuate lies and issues which can be dangerous,” Dr. Hunte-Ceasar mentioned in a information convention final week. Because of this, the islands have been experiencing a surge in instances and hospitalizations that she mentioned give her “chest ache and heartburn each night time.” Though vaccine hesitancy does appear to be lowering, residents might want to begin extensively embracing the vaccine if the islands are to fulfill their objective of vaccinating 50,000 Virgin Islanders by July 1.
Within the meantime, guests from the continental U.S. will proceed to benefit from 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. “Towards the tip of the journey, we have been truly searching for a spot to purchase.”