Under 30, out of formal work and educated to secondary level is the typical profile of the person refusing COVID-19 vaccination in the Eastern Caribbean. This is according to a groundbreaking new study on vaccine hesitancy launched on Friday.
Commissioned by UNICEF, funded by USAID and conducted by the Caribbean Development Research Services Inc (CADRES), the wide-ranging study examines the extent of, and reasons for, vaccine hesitancy – and whether the minds of vaccine hesitant persons can be changed.
The study was conducted in six countries: Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. Well over 5,000 people were surveyed.
The report reveals that unvaccinated respondents believe that the vaccines were developed too quickly and are uncertain about what is in them (24 per cent). 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 cite the need for more medical and scientific information (51 per cent). Over 40 per cent want to know more about side effects and efficacy. 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. 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 sons and daughters: only 24 per cent at pre-school, 31 per cent at primary level and 48 per cent a secondary level.
The need to tailor vaccine promotion interventions was highlighted. What works with one country and with one person doesn’t necessarily work with another, the study highlights. Finding ways to reach the typical vaccine hesitant individual – young and not working in the formal sector – with targeted interventions is seen as vital.
According to Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health in Trinidad and Tobago, “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.”
Dr. Aloys Kamuragiye, UNICEF’s Representative for the Eastern Caribbean Area 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.”
You can view the full report here.