Jamaica, 17 March 2022 - The low rate of vaccination against COVID-19 in the Caribbean must be addressed through building confidence among the population as well as responding to the inequity of vaccine access, says the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Building this confidence is a key factor in promoting universal vaccination and therefore fostering socio-economic recovery in the Caribbean, where only 40 per cent of the population counts with a complete scheme of vaccination, in comparison with 68 per cent in South America and 60 per cent in Central America. In the Americas region more than 1.7 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered.
Diana Medina, IFRC Engagement and Accountability regional manager said:
‘’Countries in the Caribbean are not just facing difficulties in their capacity to ensure that the vaccine makes it from the airport tarmac into the arms of the most vulnerable. People are avoiding getting vaccinated due to lack of confidence in the vaccine, difficulties accessing information and mistrust in certain sources. To ensure that everyone gets vaccinated it is key to strengthen community-centred dialogue, identify trust issues and address people’s doubts, concerns, and fears.’’
A combination of different factors affects the progress of the vaccination efforts: the geographic spread of the islands and poor condition of roads make it difficult to access hard-to-reach communities, leaving them unprotected and uninformed. The burden on health institutions is significant, with the undertaking of large-scale risk and awareness campaigns a challenge. In some communities there is also a lack of trust in information providers and vaccine efficiency.
A new report by the IFRC on perceptions around COVID-19, carried out in nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, reveals that some vulnerable populations such as migrants, indigenous communities, and host communities face constraints in accessing vaccination services, lack trust in their local authorities or decision makers, and are reluctant to get inoculated due to fear of side effects and concerns over safety.
Abdul Nasir Khan, IFRC Operations Coordinator for the Dutch and English-speaking Caribbean, added:
‘’Thanks to the Red Cross’ historical relationship with communities in the field, we have identified that people rely mostly on information from health care providers, humanitarian workers, and local leaders, however, they remain sceptical of information from official sources. It requires an imperative joint effort from all parties to deliver trusted and adapted information to communities through accessible and comprehensive risk communication, in parallel with active vaccination activities.’’
Since the onset of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, the Red Cross has supported almost 4,000 people in getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and provided communications addressing vaccine hesitancy to more than 650,000 people in the Caribbean. The personnel are assisting health authorities vaccinating people and implementing sensitization activities of risk communications adapted to communities' perceptions and contexts, through local awareness on house-to-house visits, walkabouts, public transportation and by setting information booths in public spaces. The Red Cross has also communicated key information to large cross-sections of the population through electronic billboards, television, radio, and digital videos.
In 2022, local Red Cross teams will continue to work as auxiliaries to the authorities, promoting equitable access to vaccines and socio-economic recovery to the most vulnerable, implementing activities to build vaccine confidence and placing communities at the centre of its actions through locally led humanitarian support.
Notes and additional Information:
- The Perception Survey Report on COVID-19 in the Americas will be presented at a digital event on Wednesday 23th March 2022, 10 a.m. EST/ 4 p.m. CET. To join the conversation, please register by clicking here.
- To Download the complete report, click here
For more information or to schedule interviews with specialists on the COVID-19 situation in the Caribbean and the Americas region, please contact:
Office for the Caribbean Region: Trevesa DaSilva, +1 876 818 8575, [email protected]