It might feel like that little blue vaccination card is the must-have accessory to show off on your Instagram Stories this summer, but there are still plenty who are without – particularly younger people.
Just over 58% of 16-25-year-olds in England have had their first Covid-19 vaccine, according to Public Health England, but the numbers are levelling off, leaving NHS Trusts a little concerned. Current case rates are higher among people in their 20s, a group who’ve had access to vaccines since June 18.
Boris Johnson isn’t very pleased either, with reports saying that the prime minister is ‘raging’ at young people who are slow to get down to vaccination centres. Johnson is trying to incentivise jabs in arms by suggesting vaccine passports will be required to enter crowded venues such as nightclubs.
But since so-called Freedom Day, night life has returned with no requirements so far to show vaccine status. And the spotlight is now on under-30s to rectify the slow uptake. Even everyone’s favourite waistcoat-wearer Gareth Southgate is encouraging youngsters to get their “freedom back” by getting jabbed.
In young people’s defence, some people point out that vaccines have only been available to this age group for a short amount of time. Nor is everyone in a position where they can afford to take time off work to nurse themselves through the potential side-effects. The easing of almost all remaining lockdown restrictions on July 19 may also be sending out a mixed message that we’ve reached post-Covid utopia, taking away the urgency of being inoculated.
But with the vaccine passport debate running on and university students facing a possible ban from lectures and halls this autumn unless they are double vaccinated, we spoke to some young people to get their perspective.
‘Young people have been left out in the cold’
Alex Josephine Gwynne, 28, designer, Sheffield
“Personally, I don’t know anyone under 30 who’s reluctant to get vaccinated, everyone I know seems eager to get it and are mostly irritated that they’ve been waiting so long.
“I’ve had my first jab, but not my second. Overall, the whole thing has been incredibly frustrating. All of my friends want to be vaccinated and have always wanted it as soon as it’s available. Why are people then wagging their fingers at the under 30 demographic for not being vaccinated when we’ve only had the ability to get their first dose for such a short period?
“A lot of my friends work within service and retail, championed as ‘key workers’ and clapped for whilst they worked through the pandemic. They were lauded as heroes, but they had no choice... and not all of them can take the time off to recover from side effects now.
“My friends don’t have the freedom to choose not to put themselves at risk, they don’t have the luxury of not working, they don’t even have the freedom to wait until they’re fully vaccinated. They’ll be there, serving customers as they have been throughout the entire pandemic, unvaccinated through no fault of their own, whilst headlines point blame at people in their age range for not accessing something inaccessible to them.”
“When I see the question, ‘why aren’t younger people fully vaccinated?’ it’s always a rhetorical weapon to beat the under-30s with, rather than to find out the answer, which is that we didn’t have access to the first dose until a few weeks ago, we can’t take time off our jobs, and because of mixed messages. Young people have been left in the cold and now they’re being blamed for shivering.”
‘The vaccine is being pushed on us’
Devo*, 24, banker, Manchester
“I have no intention of getting the vaccine unless it starts to affect my everyday life. The way I feel, the older people in my family – those above 40 – have had it, therefore I should be fine. The government is trying to sell it and I’m not interested, maybe because it was rolled out so quickly. I generally don’t do things just for the sake of it. The advertising for it is shocking too, as they are labelling vaccinated people as ‘heroes’. What a joke that is.
“The vaccine is being pushed on to me, I have been called multiple times in a day previously and I have been told I have to book an appointment whether I turn up or not. Most of my friends haven’t had it and don’t want it for the same reasons – they don’t see the point.”
‘I don’t want to feel ill afterwards’
Izzy Rose, 22, PR executive, Bermondsey
“I’m on the fence with the vaccine as I have heard so many mixed stories about the effects and urgency. For nightlife and going out, I want to get it done, and so I can be able to travel but some of the reasons why I wouldn’t take it is because I’ve heard the period and hormonal effects are quite bad. And I also don’t want to feel ill afterwards which is another reason.
“I’ve heard of people having disturbances in their menstrual cycle and apparently after you get the vaccine you get a really painful period. This is what I’ve heard through word of mouth which puts me off.”
‘I don’t trust the government’
Nassir Anwar, 19, student, Birmingham
“The reason I don’t want the vaccine is that I don’t trust it and what effects it will have on my body. I don’t trust the government because they always lie – so why should I believe a word that comes out of their mouths about the vaccine? I am a young, 19-year-old man with hypoparathyroidism [when your body produces abnormally low levels of the parathyroid hormone] and with a very weak immune system. I am scared of the side effects.
“As the vaccine is a personal choice, I refuse to take it and no one on God’s green earth can make me. I strongly believe in freedom of speech and I have listened to many perspectives on why I should have the vaccine and completely respect these opinions. As for changing my mind, I will only get vaccinated if I really have to, for example, if I really needed to go abroad to and they required me to be vaccinated. As long as I am living here in the UK I refuse to take it.”
‘I’ll take it at some point’
Olly, 21, graduate, Kent
“I plan to take the vaccine at some point. I’ve just graduated and am not in employment so I’m not so concerned about the vaccine disrupting my life. I’ve just been a bit concerned about the side effects (I’ve previously had allergic reactions to medicine) and what I feel is not enough testing time. But I am aware that this is a unique situation. If I was to get it, now would be the best time.”
*Some surnames have been omitted to offer anonymity.
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