(Barbados Today) A mistrust of COVID-19 vaccines, concern about the long-term effects and insistence on the right to choose are among the reasons fuelling the continued high level of vaccine hesitancy in Barbados and other regional states.
Moreover, over 60 per cent of those who are unvaccinated against the COVID-19 virus have made up their mind that they would not be taking the jab, although some 54 per cent of Barbadians said if they received more scientific or medical information they could change their minds.
This was among the findings of a UNICEF survey – COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Survey Report 2021 – which was released on Friday.
The survey, which was carried out by the Caribbean Development Research Services Inc. (CADRES) in October and November last year, involved responses from more than 5,900 respondents in Barbados, St Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The vaccine hesitancy index used in the survey put Barbados as the least hesitant at 3.94 points on a scale of 1-10, with one being least hesitant and 10 being most hesitant. St Vincent and the Grenadines is considered to have the most hesitant population in the survey, scoring 5.43.
An analysis of the information showed that the respondents from Barbados included those ages 18-30 years (34 per cent), 31-50 years (35 per cent) and 51 years and older (31 per cent).
At the time of the survey, 69 per cent of respondents in Barbados were vaccinated and 31 per cent said they were not.
“In the case of Barbados, the unvaccinated person is more likely to be male, under 50, and with a secondary education. The person is most likely unemployed (voluntarily or otherwise) and does not trust vaccines because of a perception that they were developed too quickly or they do not know what is in them,” stated the report.
The survey showed that 29 per cent of Barbadians were hesitant to take the vaccine because they did not trust it and believed it was unsafe and developed too quickly, or they were unsure what was in it.
Other major reasons were uncertainty about the long-term side effects (18 per cent), while 17 per cent said they simply chose not to take it.
Other reasons included: lack of trust in Government and medical authorities (8 per cent); medical condition (8 per cent); religious reasons (7 per cent); no reason, just won’t take it (6 per cent), unable to find time/lines are too long (3 per cent); not mandatory for work, didn’t qualify and don’t like any of the vaccine options.
The majority of Barbadians (73 per cent) said they did not consult with a doctor before making their decision not to take the vaccine, while 10 per cent said they consulted with a doctor and 17 per cent indicated that medical advice was irrelevant.
Sixty-four per cent of unvaccinated respondents from Barbados said their views had not changed over time and they had no intention of taking the vaccine, while 20 per cent said they were more included towards taking it now and 16 per cent said they were less included towards taking the vaccine.
Nevertheless, unvaccinated respondents said there were several factors that could convince them otherwise, including more scientific or medical information (54 per cent of respondents), a requirement to travel overseas (33 per cent of respondents), if it is necessary to secure or maintain a job (32 per cent), if they saw people they care about getting sick or dying (26 per cent), or if it allowed free access to social activities (18 per cent).
Presenting an overview of the report, Director of CADRES Peter Wickham explained that the sources that helped individuals decide not to take the vaccine were mainly social media (25 per cent) and personal Internet research (25 per cent).
The research also revealed that 16 per cent of unvaccinated respondents believed private/personal medical sources helped them in deciding not to take the vaccine, while 14 per cent cited government/official sources, 12 per cent cited information from family and friends, and 9 per cent said local radio/television/newspaper was influential in them deciding not to take the vaccine.
Respondents said there was information that could help convince them to take the vaccine, including more information on side effects (39 per cent of respondents), the efficacy (37 per cent) the different types of vaccines available (28 per cent), the number of people who got sick/died and their vaccination status (23 per cent), impact of the vaccine on sexual health (20 per cent), impact on your ability to have children (20 per cent), location of vaccine sites (14 per cent).
“This data has to be contrasted with the other data where 64 per cent of persons say they were not willing to consider it under any circumstance,” said Wickham.
Unvaccinated individuals in Barbados indicated that their preferred mode of communication or receipt of information about the vaccine was via WhatsApp (28 per cent), followed by social network of family and friends (17 per cent), television (14 per cent), Instagram 12 per cent, Facebook (9 per cent) and newspapers (8 per cent).
Forty-six per cent of respondents believe the information being conveyed by popular personalities was not helpful, distracting and misleading, while only 13 per cent of Barbadians said it was helpful and 29 per cent said it was somewhat helpful.
The decision not to take the vaccine was based mainly on what individuals saw and heard on social media (33 per cent of respondents), followed by advice from family and friends (16 per cent) and advice from a religious leader (7 per cent).
UNICEF officials are hoping that the USAID-funded research will help to influence strategies and intervention of countries in addressing vaccine hesitancy.