Vaccine hesitancy or desire for escape?
By Ben Cornwell
Everyone over the age of 18 in England has had a Covid-19 vaccine available to them for the past two months. As of 18th August government figures were showing that, nationwide, around 70% of adults in the 18-29-year-old age groups have come forward for their first dose.
That’s much less proportionately than the other age groups they are being compared to as they respectively waited their turn, but something of an upturn from reports on 20th July that urged “the remaining 40 per cent” of this cohort to come forward. And while many stories have circulated nationally suggesting that young adults were more hesitant to receive the vaccine, the number of images shared on social media of people’s blue vaccination cards gives a different impression.
So have attitudes towards the vaccine been changing? And how are public incentive schemes being responded to?
My own random survey of this age group within and around Hastings suggests that a large percentage have a positive attitude to getting the vaccine. However, many shared that they knew friends and family who were less convinced, and there was some negative feeling about incentives being offered.
Pop-up vaccination in Robertson Street
CREDIT: Ben Cornwell
“I had Covid before my first jab: I was really unwell and my family also got unwell”, said 21-year-old Rosa. “I wanted to be vaccinated to avoid getting ill again. But I think there are definitely some people who are hesitant. They think they are doing the right thing based on what they’ve read online, but a lot of what you read is misinformation and this is causing hesitancy.”
As to incentives, there are several programmes designed to boost vaccination rates among young people. These vary from minor discounts on taxi rides and takeaways to Sussex University offering double-jabbed students the opportunity to win one of ten £5,000 cash prizes. However, most interviewees claim that these incentives have had no influence on their decision.
“I find that a bit weird, to be honest.” said 29-year-old Joe, waiting in line for his vaccination at the pop-up centre outside Debenhams in Robertson Street. “I get why they are doing it – to try and encourage people [to get the vaccine] – but I haven’t been attracted by what they are offering.”
Similarly, a 25-year-old male who didn’t want to be identified said that he had no interest in the incentives and regarded them as a “shocking and controversial” move. “I think people reserve the right to choose whether they want the vaccine or not, and I think it is unfair to only reward those who do get vaccinated,” he said.
With vaccination passports being made a requirement for nightclub entry from September, there are suggestions that these passports may also become compulsory for attendance at other large-scale events and venues. But it seems that a much more significant motive has been to enable holidays abroad. After several lockdowns, tedious zoom quizzes and limited social interaction, people of all ages have been dreaming about going away for the past 18 month. Now they want the reality.
• For more information on the vaccine or to find out where your nearest vaccination centres are, visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination
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