SVG has most vaccine hesitant population among six Caribbean countries
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January 18, 2022
SVG has most vaccine hesitant population among six Caribbean countries

This country has been classified as having the largest COVID-19 vaccine hesitant population among six countries that were part of a recent study.

According to the COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Survey of 2021, the main reasons given by participants in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), for avoiding vaccination is a lack of trust and uncertainty of its long-term side effects.

The survey, which was commissioned by UNICEF, funded by USAID and conducted by the Caribbean Development Research Services Inc (CADRES), sought to examine the extent of, and reasons for vaccine hesitancy in the region.

It also examined whether vaccine hesitant individuals can be persuaded to change their minds.

More than 5000 persons were surveyed across six countries: Barbados; Dominica; Grenada; St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

According to this country’s report, the 800 persons surveyed were spread evenly across males and females in three age ranges.

About 58 per cent of the participants indicated that they had been vaccinated.

But roughly 25 per cent of the unvaccinated participants said they did not trust the vaccine because it was developed too quickly, did not know what was in it and considered it to be unsafe.

Another 16 per cent said they were unsure about the long-term side effects, 15 per cent felt that it was a choice and they chose not to take it, and 14 per cent said they did not trust the government or medical authorities.

“The unvaccinated person in St Vincent and the Grenadines is under 50, could be either male or female, does not work in an institutional environment and is educated to secondary- or post-secondary level,” the SVG component of the report said.

“When asked if their views on taking a vaccine changed over time, 65% of the unvaccinated said no, and 24% said they were actually now less inclined to get vaccinated.”

Only 11 per cent said they were more inclined to get vaccinated.

The poll states that 22 per cent of unvaccinated persons prefer Facebook while 19 per cent prefer WhatsApp as the main modes of communication and to receive information.

While these social media platforms are preferred for communication and receipt of information, just over 30 per cent of respondents say these sources also inform their decision to remain unvaccinated.

Government and official sources rank second in this regard, with 21 per cent of unvaccinated participants citing that this source has been helpful in them deciding not to take the COVID-19 jab.

According to the vaccine hesitancy survey, almost 40 per cent of unvaccinated respondents say that more scientific or medical information may play a role in changing their minds to become vaccinated.

About 31 per cent suggested that they might get vaccinated if it is required to travel overseas or to get and/or keep a job.

A change in communication strategies appears to be the main recommendation for St Vincent and the Grenadines as it relates to vaccine hesitancy among its population.

“Communication strategies need to speak to key concerns, target the demographic profile of the unvaccinated and hone the use of non-governmental personalities and influencers,” the report said.

“Supplemental strategies should consider the risk to vulnerable groups and, in respect of younger and unemployed persons, consider promoting infotainment products that might reach this audience.”

The report also noted that “vaccination tracking is necessary to determine if strategies are working and it is therefore suggested that this exercise be repeated in another year if the issue continues to be relevant”.