A new study on vaccine hesitancy in six Caribbean Community countries has found that those out of formal work and those who are educated to secondary level, fits the typical profile of the person refusing the vaccine to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The study commissioned by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and funded by the United States Agency for International Development examines the extent of, and reasons for, vaccine hesitancy and whether the minds of vaccine hesitant persons can be changed.
The study, conducted by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services Incorporation, was conducted in Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. These countries have indicated that between 40 and 46 per cent of their population have been vaccinated.
More than 5,000 people were surveyed and according to the study, 24 per cent of the unvaccinated respondents believe that the vaccines were developed too quickly and are uncertain about what is in them.
One in five said that taking the vaccine is a choice and they simply choose not to do so.
However, there is room for optimism. The study provides insight into what might change minds. Many, as high as 51 per cent, cite the need for more medical and scientific information.
Over 40 per cent want to know more about side effects and efficacy, while 30 per cent want information on the impact of the vaccine on sexual health and their ability to have children.
In addition, 39 per cent said they might re-think their position if they required the COVID-19 vaccination to travel overseas, while 34 per cent may reconsider if it was necessary to get or to keep a job.
The study also highlighted respondents’ thoughts on vaccinating their children. Whereas 62 per cent across the six countries said they were vaccinated themselves, most were against vaccinating their children with only 24 per cent at pre-school, 31 per cent at primary level and 48 per cent at secondary level.
The need to tailor vaccine promotion interventions was highlighted. The study found that what works with one country and with one person doesn’t necessarily work with another and that finding ways to reach the typical vaccine hesitant individual — young and not working in the formal sector — with targeted interventions is seen as vital.
“This report will help feed into our behaviour change management programme. So, your profile of the unvaccinated in Trinidad and Tobago will certainly help us come up with a more focused policy intervention and communications strategy,” said Trinidad and Tobago’s Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.
UNICEF’s Representative for the Eastern Caribbean Area, Dr Aloys Kamuragiye, pledged strengthened commitment.
“I urge you take this data seriously. I urge you to continuously invest in research…UNICEF stands ready to support you as you seek to develop evidence-informed interventions and I look forward to our continued collaboration in 2022 as we address vaccine hesitancy,” he added.