Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. has issued a statement dismissing baseless conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccination that are spreading on social media after a “60 Minutes” news report mentioned the Virgin Islands.
The segment aired Sunday, and described the logistical challenges involved in distributing a potential vaccine across the United States and its territories.
A two-dose vaccine being developed by Pfizer must be kept in ultra-cold storage until use. That requires dry ice, which the Virgin Islands doesn’t produce.
Marion Whicker, who is working on the federal government’s vaccine effort, told “60 Minutes” interviewer David Martin that “the Virgin Islands has already reported in that they don’t have ultra-cold freezers. That’s OK. And that they don’t have an ability to dry ice. But what we do know is that we can very quickly move dry ice from Puerto Rico.”
Some social media users spun that statement into wild theories that the federal government was planning to use Virgin Islands residents as test subjects for the vaccine.
“There is no basis for these false statements being propagated on social media platforms, and, in fact, they are harmful to the health and well-being of our community in that they instill unnecessary fear and doubt among residents and could potentially cause some Virgin Islanders to forgo using a safe vaccine that could protect them against the virus,” Bryan said in the statement.
“I am as anxious and hopeful as anyone that an effective vaccine be developed as quickly as possible to protect all Americans against COVID-19,” Bryan said. “However, I will not put the public health of our community at risk, and I will not approve distribution of a vaccine that has not been thoroughly vetted and approved by the Food and Drug Administration and that has not been meticulously tested.”
Bryan urged residents to get accurate information from legitimate sources, such as the Virgin Islands Health Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Government House, and to dismiss baseless misinformation from social media platforms.
Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion said at a recent Senate hearing that she has established a Vaccination Task Force to establish protocols and logistics for distributing COVID-19 vaccinations.