UNICEF Study Explains Vaccine Hesitancy in Six Eastern Caribbean Countries

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – A new study on vaccine hesitancy in six Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries has found that out of formal work and educated to secondary level is the typical profile of the person refusing the vaccine to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

PEXcoviPhoto Credit: RF._.studio from PexelsThe study commissioned by the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) 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 Inc (CADRES), 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 percent of their population have been vaccinated.

More than 5,000 people were surveyed and according to the study 24 percent 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 percent, cite the need for more medical and scientific information.

Over 40 percent want to know more about side effects and efficacy. 30 percent want information on the impact of the vaccine on sexual health and their ability to have children.

In addition, 39 percent said they might re-think their position if they required the COVID-19 vaccination to travel overseas, while 34 percent 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 percent across the six countries said they were vaccinated themselves, most were against vaccinating their sons and daughters with only 24 percent at pre-school, 31 percent at primary level and 48 percent 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 behavior change management program. 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.