USAID/UNICEF/OECS Launch COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Report for Eastern Caribbean Countries
On Tuesday, November 29, the United States Government, through the United States Agency for International Development/Eastern and Southern Caribbean (USAID/ESC), in collaboration with UNICEF and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, launched a second report on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy for five Eastern Caribbean countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
This second study is a follow-up to a previous study conducted in late 2021. The 2022 study was primarily intended to track the issue of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, with a central focus on vaccine uptake and the impact of strategies designed to enhance it. While the 2021 study sought to understand the public’s perception on COVID-19 and other vaccines, the 2022 study sought to understand whether there continued to be an interest in COVID-19 vaccination and if the broader vaccination environment had impacted attitudes towards immunizations for other diseases.
U.S. Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Linda Taglialatela noted, “the survey results will provide an understanding of the main barriers preventing the region from reaching our milestone of 70 percent vaccination coverage and inform where we need to redouble our efforts.”
Of the general findings in the 2022 study, it was highlighted that all countries were less likely to be vaccine hesitant compared to 2021 and respondents were slightly more likely to have their children vaccinated in 2022, although overall pediatric vaccination against COVID-19 were still low.
Dr. Carlene Radix, Head of Human and Social Development Unit of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States Commission called for partners to work together on “new approaches to be able to continue to use our most effective tools. It is by doing research on issues like vaccine hesitancy that we are able to better understand and navigate this new era.”
According to the 2022 study, the most significant change in respondents’ preferred source of information on the pandemic was a decline in interest regarding government/official sources, and an increase in reliance on social media sources.
UNICEF Deputy Representative to Eastern Caribbean Area Tanya Radosavljevic remarked, “this study remains relevant because it draws linkages between vaccine hesitancy and broader public health concerns such as routine immunization against childhood diseases and other diseases in the event of another health emergency. In an environment, where some countries are receiving pediatric vaccines against COVID-19, the study also tells us why parents are concerned about vaccinating their children.”
Recommendations from the study included the need for increased efforts to persuade parents to see the value of the COVID-19 vaccination for children and harnessing the power of social media. Partners urged the Eastern Caribbean countries to use the profiles developed to create evidence-based interventions to reach unvaccinated persons.