U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The Virgin Islands Department of Health is announcing that the Territory is set to receive its initial shipment of the enhanced Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccines by the end of this week.

This development follows last week’s commendation by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), coupled with the approval from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), for the updated COVID vaccine, which has been tailored to combat the XBB.1.5 variant. This updated vaccine will be the only COVID vaccine available throughout the fall season.

“The new vaccine will be accessible to all individuals aged six months and older, and we strongly urge those at higher risk of severe illness to prioritize receiving the updated vaccine at the earliest opportunity,” VI Health Commissioner, Justa Encarnacion said. “Please note that the vaccine is available by appointment only. This will allow us to ensure that the updated COVID vaccine is replenished timely.”

To schedule an appointment, visit https://www.covid19.usvi.care/, or call the Health Hotline at (340) 712-6299 for St. Croix or 340-776-1519 for St. Thomas-St. John, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays.

Commissioner Encarnacion emphasized that, “For those who have not yet received a COVID vaccine, now is the ideal time to take action.”

Vaccination remains the most effective protection against hospitalization and death stemming from the virus. After receiving just one dose of the updated vaccine, individuals will be considered up to date with their COVID vaccination, she said.

The CDC recommends that individuals who have recently contracted the COVID virus wait for a period of three months before getting the updated COVID vaccine. Similarly, individuals who have recently received their final dose of any COVID-19 vaccine should wait at least two months before considering the updated COVID vaccine, as per CDC recommendations.

The VI Department of Health is also reminding the public that the flu shot and the COVID vaccine may be taken simultaneously.

Vaccine Cost and Accessibility

The updated COVID vaccine is available at no cost to the majority of Americans through private health insurance and Medicare. Individuals who are uninsured or underinsured can access free COVID vaccines at local health centers, pharmacies, and healthcare providers, in accordance with the Bridge Access Program initiated by the CDC.

The Bridge Access Program for COVID-19 vaccines is designed to ensure that uninsured and underinsured adults continue to have access to no-cost COVID-19 vaccinations. This temporary program is slated to conclude in December 2024.