Since the vaccine was launched last year, the journey has been relatively smooth. The few hits faced by the jugg juggernaut, mainly hiccups in the supply chain, have been successfully navigated.
However, there are now concerns about the final stages, with people under the age of 30 showing a much greater reluctance to receive the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine than the elderly.
So far, 58.4% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 58.9% of 25- to 29-year-olds in England have received a first dose since becoming eligible on 18 June, according to Public Health England, but that number is now rising slowly enough to cause concern in the NHS.
The latest NHS figures, from July 18, show that 131,150 people aged 18 to 24 had a first dose that week – just a third of 416,434 two weeks earlier. Cities are seeing a slower absorption, with just over half of this age group taking a first dose, and clinical start-up teams in Birmingham and Solihull, Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester had less than 50 %.
Many under the age of 30 seem to have understood the message that the virus is more deadly for those over 50, meaning that young people are less likely to be harmed, which they believe is confirmed by government action.
The end of the “Freedom Day” restrictions saw the nightclubs reopen after midnight last Sunday to a large crowd, only for Boris Johnson to suggest less than 24 hours later that clubs might need Covid passports in the future. The move, some government sources claimed, was “a ploy to increase vaccine intake among young people”.
With case rates rising dramatically for people in their 20s – about one in 100 have a persistent seven-day Covid infection, according to Public Health England – it should come as no surprise that many who remain hesitant about vaccines they think ministers think it matters if they catch the virus.
“We are reopening the economy when young people generally do not have the vaccine and the consequences are that it is okay to take Covid,” said Evie Aspinall, UK spokeswoman for the G7 Youth Summit and former president of Cambridge University. Student Union. “We are told there is no real threat.”
The Observer interviewed as many as 20 people who had not yet been vaccinated and many spoke of their health concerns, skepticism about vaccines and social media – as well as a general lack of motivation. “When the government said the elderly and people with underlying health conditions needed the vaccine, I was all for it,” said Mahmud Iqbal, a 26-year-old computer engineer and barber from Tufnell Park, north London.
“But then the agenda was overturned. The age groups started to decrease and my family started asking me if I would get the vaccine. “Having recovered from Covid last year, Iqbal questioned why he needed the piercing and spoke of fears of side effects.
Kevin, a 24-year-old painter and decorator, said he “did not understand it for centuries” because he was lazy. “I never book for doctors or anything else until it is urgent. But I did not realize that you can go in, so I will probably go now. Kevin said he found it “worrying” that he had been asked to take what he described as an “experimental vaccine”. more than 20 million doses each have been administered.
“I will probably get the vaccine, so I am less likely to pass it on to vulnerable people,” he said.
Georgia, 28, from the West Midlands, said fertility was her main concern. “I have also read about many side effects in the vaccine that eliminates me – effects on the reproductive systems and women’s cycles. I want to have a baby next year and there are no published data on its long-term effects on fertility. “I do not understand why I really need it, I am healthy and I trust my immune system from the government.”
Sam Everington, a doctor in east London who is a board member of the British Medical Association, said more needed to be done to address the misinformation. “It’s difficult, but we have to keep doing provocative things on social media that just aren’t true,” he said. “The most common thing I hear is young people talking about infertility and there is no evidence of that.”
He said ministers should “stop mixed messages”. “Using ‘Freedom Day’ was completely wrong, because we have to live with Covid. I would prefer to use the words “next step”. In our local hospitals, many patients who have now been admitted with Covid have not been vaccinated and are younger. Young people may think they are immunized with Covid or may have only a minor illness, but this is not the case. “
An NHS spokesman said: “There was a lot of enthusiasm for the vaccine from young people with two-thirds of people aged 18-29 already having their first dose just a few weeks after their fitness and thousands more still being vaccinated in convenient places like Ascot Racecourse clinic and vaccine bus at the Latitude festival this weekend.
“If you have not already been vaccinated, there has never been a more important time to move on – it is fast, effective and life-saving.”