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Regional approach to vaccine hesitancy

Heads of Government within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have agreed to launch a regional campaign to address vaccine hesitancy, which continues to prevent countries from achieving herd immunity against COVID-19.

This decision was made at the 33rd intercessional meeting of the conference of CARICOM Heads of Government in Belize, earlier this month.

At the conclusion of the two-day meeting, CARICOM chairman Hon John Briceno expressed, “We are not yet free of the virus and it is crucial that our vaccination rates be increased. The reopening of our economies and education systems will be greatly assisted by an improvement in the rate of vaccination.”

While a time frame and format were not disclosed, Hon Briceno, who is also the Prime Minister of Belize continued, “We have agreed to mount a regional campaign to combat disinformation that encourages vaccine hesitancy.”

Further, he shared that the Heads have “agreed to revive the CARICOM Economic Recovery and Transformation Working Committee under the guidance of Prime Minister Mia Motley to serve as a clearing house for the many recommendations being tabled and to guide the economic and transformation process, representatives of the Caribbean Development Bank, CARICOM Development Fund and CARICOM Commission on the Economy have been included.”

Late last year, the Caribbean Development Research Services Inc (CADRES) conducted a vaccine hesitancy survey in six Caribbean countries, which are also members of CARICOM, to help them develop better strategies to persuade citizens to be vaccinated.

The survey was conducted in Grenada, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. It revealed that citizens were hesitant towards vaccination because of beliefs that the vaccines were developed too quickly and uncertainty about the content (24%). In addition, vaccination is a choice and they simply chose not to take it, they lack trust in governments, they have religious grounds and they fear long-term side effects due to existing medical issues.

The CADRES report also provided recommendations specific to each country to address the issue.

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