In the midst of the worldwide landscape shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, diverse responses have emerged across regions and cultures. Dr. Maurice Junior Chery, currently a Research Coordinator at Zanmi Lasante (ZL), embarked on a journey to comprehend the unique Haitian outlook on the COVID-19 vaccine. Pursuing a doctorate in prevention science at the Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, his commitment to understanding local dynamics fueled his endeavor.
" I observed that the opinions on the vaccine varied enormously, particularly in Haiti," reflects Dr. Chery. " My desire to clearly understand the level of vaccine acceptance among Haitians, especially in rural areas, prompted me to initiate this study."
Over a span of three weeks, Dr. Chery and his dedicated colleagues engaged with 1071 individuals in three rural communities, drawing forth valuable insights.
While 27% of respondents indicated their intent to receive the vaccine, a stark contrast unfolded: less than 1% of Haiti's population had been fully vaccinated by July 2021. Dr. Chery and his team deftly elucidated this disparity, highlighting that vaccine availability did not equate to accessibility, especially in remote areas.
"Guided by my experiences at Zanmi Lasante, a vantage point emerged," Dr. Chery elaborates. "ZL's enduring commitment to the Haitian community, particularly in rural spheres, illuminated the significance of aligning with local sentiments when enacting public health strategies, including vaccination initiatives."
Among those surveyed, 67% expressed apprehensions stemming from vaccine side effects as the foremost reason for their hesitancy. An equally significant 65% harbored concerns that the vaccine itself might trigger COVID-19 transmission. These figures underscore the pervasive influence of misinformation on public perceptions.
Within Haiti's borders, the obligation extends beyond delivering accessible healthcare to encompass education, awareness, and communication, especially for healthcare recipients. ZL
recognizes that quality healthcare is an inherent human right, and endeavors to champion equity by prioritizing care for the most vulnerable.
Dr. Chery extends gratitude to Partners in Health (PIH), ZL's sister organization committed to transformative healthcare change. "Following our data collection, the steadfast support of PIH enabled us to disseminate our findings through their platforms," Dr. Chery acknowledges. The study's outcomes found their place in the pages of the Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics Journal, echoing the resonance of this vital work.
Dr. Chery's unyielding dedication persists as he embarks on a fresh exploration. His new venture probes the disparities in cancer care experienced by Black women from the Caribbean, including Haiti, living in Florida. His goal is to determine how they can make healthier choices and prevent health problems. Dr. Chery stands shoulder-to-shoulder with other ZL doctors, collectively committed to improving the lives of Haitians far and wide.