BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, April 26, 2021 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) – As the CARICOM region observes Vaccination Week in the Americas 2021 this week (April 24-30), Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, is calling for greater public education programmes to combat the growing trend of vaccine hesitancy in the Caribbean, particularly as it relates to the COVID-19 vaccines.
“We already have a culture that values and embraces immunization. However, there are strong pockets of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and skepticism. These must be addressed through targeted messaging and sensitization,” said Prime Minister Harris in his address to mark the week’s observation in his capacity as Lead Head on matters of Health, HIV and Human Resources in the quasi CARICOM Cabinet of Heads of Government.
The prime minister observed that the Caribbean has done well in the implementation of public health measures such as social distancing, mask-wearing, and frequent hand washing but insisted that the “mass vaccination to achieve herd immunity, as has been demonstrated with Polio, is the trump card that is sadly missing.”
Dr Harris added, “The Caribbean region will not be safe until 70 to 90 per cent of its population is vaccinated. I repeat CARICOM’s call for more equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. All eligible adults in the wider Caribbean region should have access to the vaccine. Vaccination will boost the tourism sector and place us on the path to sustainable and resilient recovery. Our Caribbean is one of the most dependent regions on tourism flows.”
Caricom member States, including St. Kitts and Nevis, are observing Vaccination Week in the Americas under the theme, “Vaccines Bring Us Closer, #Get Vax”.
PrimeMinister Harris noted that this year’s awareness campaign will highlight the value of health and bringing people closer.
“During Vaccination week in the Americas, we will focus on combatting the challenge of vaccine hesitancy by re-sensitizing our people to the benefits of vaccination through continuing public education. Vaccines will bring us closer to a fairer CARICOM! Vaccines will bring us closer to a fairer Caribbean! Vaccines bring us closer. #Get Vax NOW! You deserve the protection,” Prime Minister Harris emphasized.
In St. Kitts and Nevis, fourteen vaccines can be accessed through the National Expanded Programme on Immunization. Three of these vaccines, namely: the influenza vaccine, Gardasil (the Human Papillomavirus vaccine) and the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, were introduced into the programme over the past four years.