Vaccine hesitancy and the refusal to get vaccinated has been posing a major issue to governments across the globe and no less so here in Trinidad and Tobago.

The quest to vaccinate against the deadly coronavirus has been hampered in no small measure by misinformation about the shots, people buying into the fake news that vaccines could harm or kill them, concerns about side effects and how quickly the shots were approved, despite evidence showing that the vaccines are safe and effective.

In T&T, Ministry of Health data as of Friday indicates that the total number of persons in this country who are fully vaccinated stands at 626,652, about 45% of the population. In the four-day period between last Wednesday and Saturday, just about 2,000 new cases were recorded and for the same period close to 60 people died.

To achieve herd immunity, 75% of the population needs to be inoculated. But T&T faces the issue of how to convince the hesitant and the anti-vaxxers to take the jab.

Recently, Bloomberg reported on a survey conducted by the Deloitte Center of Health Solutions which showed 34 per cent of those surveyed said they would likely get the vaccine if it was offered during a routine visit to the doctor. Another 46 per cent said they would take it if a mobile clinic visited their neighbourhood and 48 per cent said they would if it were offered at a store they were already shopping at. Some 9% of vaccinated respondents who were previously hesitant said they got the shot because of family and friends. Significantly, the survey found 61% of those on the fence also said they could be influenced if the vaccine were required for their daily activities, suggesting the effectiveness of vaccine mandates, and 56% could be influenced if their family asked them to get inoculated to see them.

Applied to the T&T scenario, this could offer some guidance on what Government can do further or better to get the unvaccinated to get inoculated. For example, the state may consider placing vaccine booths at high traffic government offices like the Licensing, Inland Revenue and Immigration Division, anywhere people need to access services. With the assistance of the private sector, Government can also target movie theatres, restaurants, popular stores, bars and even mas camps for similar drives.

It is, however, simple — take the vaccines to the people. Trying new methods to increase the vaccinated numbers are critical at this time and is the only thing that can make a difference.

No one can be immune to the deaths of 1,800-plus citizens. No one knows where this terror will hit next. The onus is on every citizen to help fight this deadly virus. COVID-19 is now as dangerous as the criminal element, except that you cannot see it. But it is real and it is there. The lives lost is evidence enough of the danger it poses. It cannot be business as usual. Stopping this disease from ravaging T&T requires all citizens getting on board. Without collective responsibility, we are doomed.