This boom was helped by the fact that from March 1, everyone over the age of 16 has the right to receive the vaccine in the Virgin Islands – so tourists do not even have to worry about reducing the order. The territory can also receive about 100 entries each day. “Nowhere else in the U.S. can you actually just go in and get the vaccine, no one over the age of 16,” Mr. Bryan said Monday. The island was also opened on March 1 by two federally supported community vaccination centers in St. Louis. Thomas and St. Croix.
U.S. travelers also face less bureaucracy when visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands compared to other Caribbean destinations. If they to hand over a negative coronavirus test within five days of leaving the territory or a positive antibody test done within four months, they do not have to be quarantined upon arrival. Passengers in Jamaica i Barbadosunlike them, quarantines are required no matter what. And American travelers cannot visit the Cayman Islands if they do not adhere to strict rules eligibility criteria.
Dr. Hunte-Ceasar said that at this time, the Ministry of Health did not consider tourism vaccines a problem. “We definitely want to make sure locals get vaccinated,” she said. But “we had no shortcomings in serving both populations.” The Virgin Islands currently has 27,000 doses of Pfizer, 18,900 doses of Moderna and 600 doses of Johnson & Johnson, said Monife Stout, director of immunization.
Noreen Michael, a researcher at the University of the Virgin Islands who studies health differences, agreed it was crucial to make vaccines available to residents who wanted them, but said she saw no evidence to suggest that tourists take vaccines from residents who wanted them. “As far as public health is concerned, it’s a plus,” she said. “As for capital, I don’t see it as a significant issue.”
Perhaps vaccine tourism could also be used as a force for good – to provide doses to marginalized groups in other regions. Although the Virgin Islands offer free Covid-19 vaccines, the islands could charge tourists for their vaccines, and the funds could be used to send vaccines to regions in need, said Felicia Knaul, an international health economist at the University of Miami. “Can we send those vaccines to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic or Haiti?” she asked. “Once you go through the key aspects of welfare and human rights, if you can use that funding to pay people who don’t currently have access, I think it’s worth considering.”
For now, health authorities are focused on ways to reduce vaccine volatility in the area. “People approach misinformation and continue to lie and do things that are harmful,” said Dr. Hunte-Ceasar at a press conference last week. As a result, the islands are experiencing a sharp rise in cases and hospitalizations, which she said gave her “chest pain and heartburn every night”. Although vaccine variability appears to be declining, residents will have to start accepting the vaccine widely if the islands want to meet their goal of vaccinating 50,000 Virgin Islands by July 1st.
Meanwhile, visitors from the continental United States will continue to take advantage of additional doses. Some stayed longer than planned – and even considered moving to the islands forever.
“I started falling in love with the culture of St. Croix,” said Hemal Trivedi, a documentary filmmaker who lives in Weehawken, NJ, and was vaccinated in St. Louis in February. Croix. “Towards the end of the trip, we were actually looking for a place to buy.”