A recent Government survey has revealed that just fewer than 50 per cent of Barbadians would be willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them.
Statistics gathered during Operation Seek and Save conducted from February 3rd to 25th revealed that 28,701 or 49.2 per cent of respondents would accept the injection, while 28,161 or 48.2 per cent indicated they would not take the vaccine and 1,520 or 2.6 per cent was unsure or undecided. The most common reason (20.6 per cent) among those opposed to vaccination was a lack of information regarding the injection.
The results have emerged less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Mia Mottley underscored the importance of herd immunity to a return to full and sustained economic activity.
However, Lead Coordinator of the operation Dr. Dion Greenidge who is Head of Management Studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill says the final numbers do not tell the whole story.
The figures, obtained by Barbados TODAY on Friday, reported a sharp increase in the number of Barbadians willing to take the vaccine since February 13th. In fact, this number rose from approximately 44.06 per cent in the operation’s first days to over 78 per cent on the final day.
“This was in line with the Government of Barbados rolling out of its COVID-19 vaccine programme. All in all, these results revealed a growing acceptance of Barbadians and those residing in Barbados towards being vaccinated,” the document explained.
In addition to a lack of knowledge, 18.1 per cent of those unwilling to take the vaccine cited religious reasons, while 16.3 per cent believe the vaccine is ineffective, and another 16.1 fear adverse side effects. Meanwhile, 11.8 per cent admitted they were afraid of such medical procedures, 11 per cent cited medical reasons, and six per cent said it was simply a matter of personal choice.
“Some people may just look at the superficial numbers at the top when they may not necessarily tell the whole story. After around February 14th, there was a positive switch where you had about six in 10 persons starting to say that they would take the vaccine,” Dr. Greenidge told Barbados TODAY.
“So over the latter periods, you had like a 78.93 per cent [willing to take the vaccine] to a [18.69 per cent unwilling] in the latter stages of the survey,” the academic added.
While the project that was intended to collect information pertinent to the national battle against COVID-19 and dengue reached a total of 86,570 people, just over 28,000 offered no response to questions regarding vaccines.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Mottley made a strong case for population immunity, identifying wide-scale inoculation as the “major way out of this pandemic”. She also expressed confidence that enough vaccines would be made available for the entire population to receive injection. The PM however stressed that Government would not be forcing anyone to take it.
“Vaccination of Barbadians, therefore, is a central plank for the full reopening of the national economy, so that all Barbadians can eat, work, and live with dignity and we can get back to having an aggressive public sector investment programme and capital works programme,” the PM declared.
“While it is my wish and intention for Barbados to be among the countries to have COVID vaccinations on demand, it is not the will or intention of this government to force anybody not seeking a vaccination to not get one. In plain terms, vaccination is not mandatory in Barbados.
“But let us also be clear…We are already seeing signs in the world that if you want to do certain things, that people are requiring more and more evidence of vaccination. So while we are not making it mandatory, we are also going to make it clear in explaining to our population how the world is moving and the extent to which people’s movements and choices will be limited in the absence of vaccinations,” she added.
So far, the country has vaccinated 29, 283 people including 3,692 on Friday alone after receiving 100,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines from the Government of India.