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HomeNewsLocal newsFully Insured Virgin Islanders Facing Challenges in Getting COVID-19 Vaccines and Boosters

Fully Insured Virgin Islanders Facing Challenges in Getting COVID-19 Vaccines and Boosters

At the moment,  the Center for Disease Controls’ Bridge Access Program provides free COVID-19 vaccines to adults without health insurance or adults whose insurance does not cover all COVID-19 vaccine costs, and those eligible by not having health insurance can get a booster or current vaccine through the V.I. Department of Health.

However,  Medicare and Medicaid recipients along with others with private health insurance that cover vaccines have few places to turn at the moment in the Virgin Islands, especially on St. Thomas.

A receptionist at Plessen Health Care on St. Croix said vaccines are available at their two locations on St. Croix from 8 a.m to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

On St. Thomas, Wilson Healthcare, has no vaccines and a waiting list.

Walgreens, which was one of the go-to places for people with insurance, is not answering the phone and the website indicates there are no updated COVID-19 vaccines available in the Virgin Islands. When completing the online form to make an appointment anytime in the next week specifically for a COVID-19 booster, the message reads: “Based on the information provided, we don’t have any available appointments within 25 miles of your location.”

Department of Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion stated in a telephone conversation Thursday that though the number of COVID-19 cases appear to be low in the Virgin Islands that is not so for the mainland United States.

Meanwhile, it is impossible to know how many cases there actually are since many people assume they have a cold or the flu and don’t test even with at-home tests. And even those who test positive with those packaged over the counter tests are not counted.

According to the People’s CDC, a volunteer, nonpartisan watchdog organization formed by scores of healthcare professionals to keep watch on and analyze the CDC’s public information, “scientific evidence indicates updated vaccines should ideally be allowed, available, and fully covered by public funds and/or insurance, for people of all ages at least every six months.”

However,  Encarnacion pointed out that the vaccines are “extremely expensive.”

When the vaccine was commercialized last fall, the Health Department could continue providing vaccines for the uninsured or underinsured because they were still free for that group. The Bridge program is due to end in December 2024.

Dr. Tai Hunte-Caesar, medical director for the Health Department, who is on leave until next week, regularly attempts to reach out to doctors in an effort to track availability within the private sector.

Nevertheless, as with most challenges facing short-staffed government agencies, that’s easier said than done.

Meanwhile, Christine Lett, DOH director of communications, said the Health Department is “Working to get vaccines here for the fully insured, as well.”

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