by Gemma Handy
Just over one in three local residents who have responded to an online poll say they are amenable to taking the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Almost 250 people have so far participated in the independent survey – with slightly under a third saying they will not take it, and the remainder still undecided.
The poll was set up by Phikwe Goodwin, an Antiguan civil engineer and environmentalist, who told Observer he believed it was vital to gather solid data to accompany the national vaccination rollout.
Yesterday, frontline medics became the first in the country to receive the AstraZeneca shot when the programme got underway at Mount St John’s Medical Centre.
Scepticism surrounding Covid-19 jabs remains high due to the rapid speed of their development, and differing efficacy rates.
AstraZeneca has shown 63 percent efficacy against symptomatic infection, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However a recent study published in the British Medical Journal found its efficacy reached 82.4 percent in those who had the second dose after an interval of 12 weeks or more.
The Moderna vaccine – the one taken by Prime Minister Gaston Browne – is said to be 94.1 percent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 after the second dose, while Pfizer’s rate is higher still at 95 percent after two doses.
As coronavirus infections continue to surge in Antigua and Barbuda, which has now recorded almost 500 cases, health officials are keen to assuage fears surrounding the potentially life-saving inoculation.
Curtailing the virus’ spread is also crucial to allow for relaxation of restrictions which currently include a night-time curfew and closures of certain businesses including bars and gyms.
“I think it’s important for a campaign as crucial for the country as this one is, to carry out data-driven engagement with the public and not carry out a vaccination campaign based only on intuition,” Goodwin said.
“I think it would prove detrimental to the vaccination effort to just assume that most of the public are at this stage willing to take this vaccine.”
Goodwin, who self-funded the Survey Monkey poll and shared it via his social media pages, added, “I am hoping that the authorities will realise the reality of what’s necessary to educate the public and have a successful vaccination programme. It has to be based on empirical information.”
The short survey asks respondents three simple questions: their willingness to take the shot, their age bracket, and whether or not they are eligible to use the country’s free health care system.
Half of the people who have taken part to date are aged between 30 and 45, and 94 percent described themselves as resident in the twin island nation and eligible for free health care.
Almost 37 percent of people said they would take the shot, compared to 31 percent who said they would not, and 32 percent who were “not yet sure”.
The survey is still active and Goodwin said he is keen to attract as much engagement as possible before submitting his findings to health authorities.
The poll can be found online at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NP7M5JG?fbclid=IwAR2fwe3Cmirs5_LgqQh9dA5ATDiAO6_CnbSMBBN_bywSs_DpbXS0etqmjFI
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