Covid vaccine hesitancy halves among young people in Great Britain

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Covid vaccine hesitancy has almost halved among 18- to 21-year-olds in Great Britain, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

The figures also suggest increasing numbers of 16- and 17-year-olds are willing to have the jab, as hesitancy has decreased from 14% to 11%. Older teenagers are now able to get one after the decision was announced last week to extend the rollout to that age group.

The ONS survey looked at attitudes during the period from 23 June to 18 July – a day before most coronavirus restrictions were lifted in England.

At the time of the data collection, otherwise healthy 16- and 17-year-olds were not eligible and the vaccine rollout was aimed at those aged 18 and over.

Among those aged 18 to 21, hesitancy fell to 5% from 9%, and dropped slightly for 22- to 25-year-olds from 10% to 9%.

Incentives to boost vaccination rates among young people include 10 £5,000 cash prizes for Sussex University students, and discounted taxi rides and takeaways.

The first otherwise healthy 16- and 17 year-olds in the UK received their Covid-19 jabs on Friday, two days after a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to extend the programme.

Until that point, some under-18s had been eligible for a jab if they had certain health conditions, were living with someone who was immunocompromised or were approaching their 18th birthday.

The extension of the rollout means all of the UK’s 1.4 million 16- and 17-year-olds are eligible to get a first dose. The JCVI said they should be offered their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab and advice on when to offer the second dose would come later. Older teenagers will not need consent from parents or guardians.

For the ONS survey, vaccine hesitancy refers to adults who have chosen not to be vaccinated, report being very or fairly unlikely to have a vaccine if offered, or responded “neither likely nor unlikely”, “don’t know” or “prefer not to say” when asked how likely they would be to get a jab if offered.

The ONS said its data involved 15,433 people aged 16 and above in England, Scotland and Wales.

Overall, 96% reported positive sentiment towards coronavirus vaccines while 4% reported hesitancy – figures unchanged from the previous findings, which covered 26 May to 20 June.

Adults in the most deprived areas of England (based on the Index of Multiple Deprivation) were more likely to report vaccine hesitancy (8%) than adults living in the least deprived areas (2%).

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