Some Tourists Find Luck in the Caribbean with Covid-19 Vaccine
This boom was aided by the fact that as of March 1, everyone over the age of 16 has been eligible to receive the vaccine in the Virgin Islands. So tourists don’t even have to worry about standing in line. The area also hosts about 100 walk-ins daily. “Nowhere else in the US can you just come in and get vaccinated, anyone over 16,” said Bryan on Monday. On March 1, the islands also opened two government-sponsored vaccination centers on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
March 28, 2021, 11:59 p.m. ET
US travelers experience less red tape when visiting the US Virgin Islands compared to other Caribbean destinations. If they submit a negative coronavirus test within five days of their departure or a positive antibody test within four months, they do not need to be quarantined upon arrival. Travelers to Jamaica and Barbados, on the other hand, are asked to be quarantined in any case. And US travelers can only visit the Cayman Islands if they meet strict admission criteria.
Dr. Hunte-Ceasar said the Ministry of Health did not see vaccine tourism as a problem at the time. “We definitely want to make sure that the residents are vaccinated,” she said. But “we have had no shortage in serving both races.” There are currently 27,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine, 18,900 doses of Moderna vaccine and 600 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine available in the Virgin Islands, said Monife Stout, the department’s vaccination director.
Noreen Michael, a scientist at the University of the Virgin Islands who studies health inequalities, agreed that ensuring that vaccines are available to residents who want them is critical, but said she had seen no evidence of this that tourists take vaccines away from residents who want them. “On the public health side, it’s a plus,” she said. “On the stocks side, I don’t see it as a major problem.”
Perhaps vaccine tourism could also be used as a driving force – to secure doses for marginalized groups in other regions. Although the Virgin Islands do offer free Covid-19 vaccines, the islands could bill tourists for their vaccines and the funds could be used to send vaccines to regions that need them, said Felicia Knaul, an international health economist at the University of Miami . “Could we send these vaccines to Jamaica, Dominican Republic, or Haiti?” She asked. “If you have overcome major welfare and human rights issues and can use these funds to pay for people who currently do not have access, then you should think about it.”
Currently, health officials are focused on ways to reduce vaccine reluctance in this area. “People access misinformation and perpetuate lies and harmful things,” said Dr. Hunte-Ceasar in a press conference last week. As a result, the islands saw an increase in cases and hospitalizations that she said caused “chest pain and heartburn” every night. Although hesitation about vaccines appears to be decreasing, residents will have to adopt the vaccine largely if the islands are to achieve their goal of vaccinating 50,000 Virgin Islanders by July 1.
In the meantime, visitors from the continental US will continue to benefit from the additional doses. Some also stayed longer than planned – and even considered moving to the islands for good.
“I started falling in love with St. Croix culture,” said Hemal Trivedi, a documentary filmmaker who lives in Weehawken, New Jersey and who was vaccinated in St. Croix in February. “Towards the end of the trip, we were actually looking for a place to buy.”