‘Anti-vax’ talk a setback

An increase in anti-vaccine sentiments has led to a decrease in the immunisation rate among Barbadian children, says Senior Health Sister Hazel Forde.

She stated that these figures were especially common after the COVID-19 pandemic which saw the rise of an ‘anti-vax’ element in Barbados, and worldwide.

“I think COVID-19 saw the rise of a very persistent anti-vaccine element, and that’s not unique to Barbados, that is worldwide. Coming out of that you find people don’t trust vaccines in the same way they did previously.

“For the same reasons in places like the US, the UK, and Europe, you are seeing a rise in vaccine preventable diseases, especially things like measles, spots of polio, and diphtheria,” she said.

“We are a tourism-dependent country so anything that happens in the US, and the UK, it doesn’t take long before those things are at our door so we are endeavouring to encourage our people and give them all avenues to increase their vaccine coverage,” she said.

Forde was speaking to the DAILY NATION at the Eden Lodge Primary School in Eden Lodge, St Michael, during an open day/health fair on Saturday. Throughout the day, childhood vaccines for chicken pox, as well as measles, mumps and rubella were offered.

A nurse with the Eunice Gibson Polyclinic, Forde mentioned that records at the clinic found that a high number of children in the area did not have their early childhood vaccines.

The school was therefore chosen to encourage and to facilitate parents who were previously unable to come into the clinic. Screenings for blood pressure, blood sugar, and hearing checks were also available.

Among the children who received their vaccine was Zayden Callender-Baptiste who was accompanied by his grandmother Cindy Callender. Callender said it was crucial to have her grandson vaccinated, recognising it as a tested and guaranteed safeguard from illnesses.

“I was vaccinated when I was young and I saw the benefits of it so therefore my grandchildren need to be vaccinated. Until I can see different, I do different, but for right now this is the way to go.

“I also see a resurgence in a lot of things that we thought were over, for example, polio in 2024. Why do children have polio when we have vaccines from so long ago,” she asked.

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