Why are young people in the UK vaccine hesitant?

young people vaccine hesitant, uk vaccine hesitant
© David Herraez

ONS data finds that young people are distrustful of the vaccine, the UK Government, and anyone encouraging vaccine take-up – alongside the perception that COVID will not threaten their lives

According to an ongoing study by Imperial College London, the UK vaccine rollout and accompanying social distancing measures have directly caused a decrease in the horrific level of COVID hospitalisations and deaths throughout the country.

But right now, vaccination among young people is stalling – with the NHS facing the harsh reality of throwing away expired Moderna shots, due to a lack of demand from the age groups who should be taking mRNA vaccines.

As of 12 August, 2021, 32.4% of young people aged between 18-29 have taken both of their COVID doses.

The new ONS study is relatively tiny, with just 17 participants involved. But among them, real perceptions of the COVID vaccine are freely expressed. Individuals were interviewed in a semi-structured way, in June, 2021.

For more insight into what the general adult population worried about when it came to COVID vaccines, read this.

So, why are young people vaccine hesitant?

They believe vaccine was developed too quickly

According to the interviews, young people believe that the speed of the vaccine (from being proposed to being implemented) was too fast.

They generally found it suspicious, with one individual stating: “I was a bit wary of it only because it came so quickly which is unusual considering like we are trying to find vaccines or cures for other things and it’s taking years.”

However, the vaccine was developed this quickly due to a global shutdown in operations. The priority has never been so focused on one virus, across continents. Government funding, manufacturing capacity and researcher’s existing knowledge about solving viruses were drawn together – creating a research momentum which has never been witnessed before.

They have no trust in the UK Government

Another key reason was a lack of trust in the UK Government, with some stating that too many people were asking them to take the jab. Many young people who are vaccine hesitant also don’t trust medical authorities. In communities of colour, there is historic precedent to be wary.

One person, reflecting on the power of politics, said: “I believe there’s an element of truth in the fact that Governments do want to control and have more access to people’s…data and everything like that. It’s important to them.”

However, the UK Government already has access to people’s data via their intelligence-gathering networks. The common myth that vaccines will enable humans to be microchipped is a costly, frivolous idea – the “microchips” are already externally in place.

Fearful of unknown long-term impacts

One of the specific health-related reasons, connected to this overall lack of belief in the vaccine, was a fear of long-term impacts from taking a COVID vaccine.

One individual said: “And you hear all these horror stories about things that are going wrong with you…and just like the blood clots and people like being paralysed and like the part of the body is gone numb and things like that.”

Other people were concerned about how to handle their lives if the vaccine did impact them, with one person asking “who will look after the kids?”

However, blood clots are more common in those with the COVID vaccine. So are heart failures and strokes. A new study, conducted by observing over 1 million people in Israel, found that side effects of the vaccine were substantially less common than side effects of the virus itself.


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