A survey of Caribbean attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccination finds mistrust of vaccines as a major contributing factor and calls for regional governments to adopt new communications strategies to address some of the critical concerns identified.
The advice comes from a survey in six Caribbean countries, which found a lack of trust as the main reason influencing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy regionally.
UNICEF and USAID commissioned the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services Inc (CADRES) to conduct surveys in Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago in October and November 2021.
It explored reasons for the high levels of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and possible strategies to change the minds of hesitant persons.
The survey became necessary after it became clear the region’s vaccination levels had leveled off in September 2021.
At 31 December 2021, the vaccination rates were at very varying levels – from 86% in the Cayman Islands to 20.8% in Jamaica and 0.64% in Haiti.
In the countries surveyed, levels had not improved one month later.
At the end of 2021, the respective rates were: Barbados (49.8%), Dominica (38.5%), Grenada (31.7%), Saint Lucia (27.6%), St. Vincent & The Grenadines (23.7%) and Trinidad & Tobago (48.4%).
Vaccination levels have remained low, in spite of increases in the level of daily infections across the region, as in Europe and the USA, following the Omicron onslaught, which has caused the closure of most main hospitals across US states, forcing the reintroduction of more stringent protocols.
Causes for mistrust of the available vaccinations have been found by extra-regional scientists to have been mainly influenced by social media misinformation and confusion, in particular on Facebook.
Across the region, however, other factors also contribute to the hesitancy, including misinformation by the anti-vax lobby and inadequate messaging by governments and state agencies.
The CADRES survey led to a list of recommendations, among them the adoption of new communication strategies to address the unvaccinated within targeted demographic profiles.
The CADRES survey also called for utilizing the skills of non-governmental personalities and influential persons to change attitudes.