St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the most vaccine-hesitant country in the Sub-Region according to a survey commissioned by UNICEF and USAID and conducted by the Caribbean Development Research Services Inc (CADRES).
The findings of the survey which was released today (14 January), was conducted across six countries: St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.
According to the findings the country scored 5.4 on this index, where 1 is a perfect score, 3 is the objective score and 10 is an imperfect one.
Only 20% of respondents with children at the primary level and 36% at secondary school would agree to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19. This is significantly lower than the all-country averages, where 48% said they would agree to the vaccine for secondary school students.
The chief justification respondents (vaccinated and unvaccinated) gave for hesitating to vaccinate their children related to their age. 17% said their children were too young.
Those who were persuaded to allow their children to take vaccines said they did so after completing more research and speaking to their doctor.
As noted, 58% of respondents in St. Vincent and the Grenadines reported having been vaccinated, with oxford/AstraZeneca the most used at 50%. The next most popular was BioNTech/ Pfizer (28%).
It is the only country in the survey where the majority of respondents got to choose their preferred vaccine (54%). 46% took what was available.
The reasons for any early hesitancy involved a lack of trust in the vaccines on account of the speed of their development and uncertainty over long-term side effects.
The major factors that convinced respondents to get the vaccine themselves were doing more research and speaking to their doctor.
According to the survey, the primary sources of information on the COVID-19 vaccine situation were government/official sources by a wide margin, St Vincent and the Grenadines was the only country where social networks were the priority medium of communication.
In terms of whether the use of local and international personalities has any effect, vaccinated respondents in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (75%) were the most likely to find this useful. The all-country average was 62% in this category.
Most vaccinated respondents believe in a vaccine mandate for a wide range of people, except primary school students. Only 33% thought vaccines should be mandated for this group. (The all-country average for primary school students was 39%).
The chief reason given by respondents for avoiding vaccination is the contention that they don’t trust it and are unsure about long-term side effects.
The survey showed that an 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.
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% said they were more inclined to do so).
The preferred mode of communication for unvaccinated persons was Facebook, followed by WhatsApp.
The sources that respondents relied on to inform their decision to remain unvaccinated were social media and government/official sources, according to the survey.
The survey sought to find if there was any evidence that would make reluctant respondents take a COVID-19 vaccine. Most said more information on side effects and efficacy could sway them.
When asked if there were any other factors that might help change their minds, apart from more medical information, respondents suggested they might get vaccinated if it is required for overseas travel or to get/keep a job.
Despite remaining unpersuaded, around 70% of the unvaccinated in St. Vincent and the Grenadines found information conveyed by personalities to be helpful.
In relation to vaccine mandates: unsurprisingly, unvaccinated respondents were much less likely than their vaccinated counterparts to support them. Agreement with mandates for students was particularly low.
Recommendations From The Survey
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.
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.
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.
800 participants were surveyed, evenly spread across males and females and three age ranges. 61% said they were parents. Most were employed, had a secondary-level education and 13% reported being unemployed because of COVID-19.
The study was carried out in October and November 2021 and explores the extent of, and reasons for, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and if anything can be done to change the minds of those reluctant to take the vaccines.