In Search of a Vaccine, Some Tourists Find Luck in the Caribbean


This increase has been aided by the proven fact that since March 1, everybody over 16 has been eligible to get the vaccine in 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 in the U.S. can you actually just walk in and get the vaccine, anybody over 16,” Mr. Bryan stated 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 pink tape when visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands in contrast with different Caribbean locations. If they submit a damaging 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. 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 until they conform to strict eligibility criteria.

Dr. Hunte-Ceasar stated that, at this level, the Department of Health didn’t contemplate vaccine tourism to be a downside. “We definitely want to ensure the local residents get vaccinated,” she stated. But “we have not had any shortages by serving both populations.” The Virgin Islands presently 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, stated Monife Stout, the division’s immunization director.

Noreen Michael, a scientist at 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 stated she had not seen proof to recommend that vacationers are taking vaccines away from residents who need them. “On the public health side, it’s a plus,” she stated. “On the equity side, I don’t see it as significant issue.”

Perhaps, too, vaccine tourism may very well be used as a power for good — to safe doses for marginalized teams in different areas. Although 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, stated Felicia Knaul, a global well being economist at the University of Miami. “Could we send those vaccines to Jamaica, or to the Dominican Republic or Haiti?” she requested. “Once you’ve gotten past the key welfare and human rights aspects, if you can use that funding to pay for people who right now have no access, I think it’s worth thinking about.”

For now, well being authorities are centered on methods to scale back vaccine hesitancy in the territory. “People access misinformation and perpetuate lies and things that are harmful,” Dr. Hunte-Ceasar stated in a information convention final week. As a end result, the islands have been experiencing a surge in circumstances and hospitalizations that she stated give her “chest pain and heartburn every night.” Although vaccine hesitancy does appear to be lowering, 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.

In the meantime, guests from the continental U.S. will proceed to take benefit of the further doses. Some have stayed longer than they deliberate, too — and have even contemplated shifting to the islands for good.

“I started falling in love with the culture of St. Croix,” stated Hemal Trivedi, a documentary filmmaker who lives in Weehawken, N.J., and was vaccinated in St. Croix in February. “Toward the end of the trip, we were actually looking for a place to buy.”



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