One in eight young people across Britain remain hesitant about getting the Covid-19 vaccine, the latest government statistics have revealed.
Some 13 per cent of people aged between 16 and 29 are still hesitant about the jab, according to the Office for National Statistics – the highest proportion of any age group.
It comes despite a huge push to get young adults to sign up for the vaccine, as bookings were opened up to 25 to 29-year-olds in England on Tuesday.
Experts say the relative lack of enthusiasm is partly down to the fact most public messaging during the pandemic has focused on the threat to older people.
“Young people have been getting the message that they’re not important when it comes to the virus,” Ivo Vlaev, professor of behavioural science at Warwick Business School at the University of Warwick, told The Independent.
“So there’s been a complacent attitude to the vaccine among some [young people]. There’s still some work to be done to persuade them it’s vital that they participate.”
Recent research also suggests that dependence on social media – more frequently used by young people to get their news – is linked to higher levels of vaccine scepticism.
“Social media is so important to young people, so they’re more susceptible to misinformation – that need to be challenged wherever we find it,” said Prof Vlaev.
The behavioural scientist, who has advised the NHS’s Covid-19 Behavioural Change Unit, says it’s been more difficult to appeal to civic duty with young people than older age groups.
“You need to appeal to self-interest,” said Prof Vlaev. “Young people’s social lives have been badly affected by lockdowns, so the messaging needs to explain that you’ll be getting your life back the sooner we get everyone immunised.”
Last month, YouTube launched an NHS-backed social media campaign encouraging young people aged 18 to 34 to join the vaccination programme with the call: “Let’s not go back.”
Ben McOwen Wilson, managing director of YouTube UK and Ireland, previously told The Independent the campaign was aimed at reminding young people of the “value” in getting back to normal in a way that is safe.
“While it’s understandable young people might just want to put the pandemic behind them, we can’t afford to put all the hard work and sacrifices from the last year under threat,” he said.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said he was encouraged by a “Glastonbury-style” rush for appointments on Tuesday, after the vaccine rollout was expanded to under-30s in England.
The national booking service saw almost 500,0000 appointments allocated – more than double the number booked the previous day.
England’s GP director Dr Nikki Kanani urged as many young people as possible to come forward, saying: “That is the best thing that we can all do to start to get back to the lives that we love and that we’ve been missing.”
Levels of enthusiasm about the vaccine are still markedly higher among middle-aged and older people, the latest figures suggest.
Only 8 per cent of Britons in their thirties and forties – and only 2 per cent of the over-50s – remain hesitant about the jab.
The latest ONS figures also show that people living in England’s most deprived areas are three times more likely to be hesitant about getting a jab than those in the wealthiest parts of the country.
One in 10 people in the most deprived parts of England are still hesitant about the vaccine – compared to just 3 per cent of people living in the least deprived areas.
Black British adults were the ethnic group reporting the highest level of vaccine hesitancy, at 21 per cent – only a slight decrease from the 22 per cent of black adults who expressed hesitancy between mid-February and mid-March.
Experts have pointed to structural bias and mistrust among some in ethnic minority communities – suggesting that historic discrimination in accessing services could be a factor in rates of vaccine hesitancy.
The ONS defines “hesitancy” as adults who have refused a vaccine, or say they would be unlikely to get a vaccine when offered – and those who responded “don’t know” or “prefer not to say” when asked about the vaccine.
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