Roadmap to guide the unvaccinated

File photo by Sureash Cholai
File photo by Sureash Cholai

It should be a source of embarrassment for the Ministry of Health that the most useful public data about local vaccine hesitancy was developed and shared by UNICEF.

The report commissioned by that UN body and USAID and carried out by Caribbean Development Research Services (Cadres) covered six Caribbean nations, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and TT.

In nine pages, competently illustrated by graphics, the profile of the vaccine-hesitant in this country was articulated clearly.

Cadres surveyed 1,480 citizens, face to face, half of them male, with a balance across the age ranges 18-30, 31-51, and 51 and older. Half the respondents had at least a secondary school education and 55 per cent were employed in some capacity.

Of the survey sample, 65 per cent said they were vaccinated, the second highest vaccination level after Barbados.

Resistance to child vaccination was highest for preschool children, at 65 per cent, dropping steadily to 31 per cent for tertiary level students.

Why are citizens hesitant? Twenty per cent didn't trust the vaccines, with 17 per cent unsure of long-term side effects.

The Cadres survey of TT found that, "The unvaccinated person in TT is not of any particular age or sex, has a secondary-level education and does not work in the formal sector."

The top reasons for taking the vaccine? Conversations with a doctor led, with 12 per cent, followed by personal research and improved vaccine choice.

Where are people getting their information? Survey respondents preferred to get their information from television and WhatsApp, followed by social networks and newspapers, with government sources at 33 per cent.

This information can't – or shouldn’t – be news to the government team assigned to managing data and communication for the parallel health sector, but now the information is clearly articulated and publicly available. One thing it shows glaringly obviously is the need for more and better communication of information from official sources.

This is far from being the first time this newspaper has made this point.

The government now has a roadmap to craft a more effective strategy to disseminate appropriate information that will actually address the vaccination logjam that's bedevilling the country.

A good place to begin is with police, prisons and fire officers, who remain below the national average for vaccination.

The Police Social and Welfare Association (PSWA) has called for a million-dollar payout for officers who die from covid19, but shouldn't the association first encourage its members to make pre-emptive vaccination a priority?

It's time, too, to revamp Health Ministry press conferences to address the concerns of the unvaccinated and to adopt a more aggressive information-sharing strategy, starting with police, prisons and fire officers, to encourage greater adoption of vaccine protection.


"Roadmap to guide the unvaccinated"

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