Why we need to shift vaccine roll-out narrative to under-50s - Laura Collins, YEP Editor

The sun is shining, freshly-pulled pints of chilled lager are flowing and – dare I say it – it’s starting to feel like we’re turning a corner.

Monday, 26th April 2021, 6:00 am
Leeds Vaccination Centre at Elland Road, Leeds.

Our city centre has awakened from hibernation as non-essential shops and outdoor hospitality venues are seeing their tills ring once more.

More and more people are getting their call-ups for the vaccine and I’m counting down the days until my parents and severely disabled sister are fully vaccinated with their imminent second jab dates edging nearer.

There is a sense of optimism in the air as we’re all starting to take our tentative first steps back into the streets of the city we are proud to call our home.

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And it all comes just a week after health chiefs in Leeds revealed more than half of the city’s adult population has received a first jab.

A number of initiatives rooted in the heart of our communities are under way to help support the roll-out and boost confidence in areas where there are concerns around the uptake of the vaccine to make sure nobody gets left behind.

Drop-in clinics at the Bilal Centre and the Infinity Centre, both in Harehills, are just two of those that health chiefs in Leeds say are playing their part in turning the tide among older members of BAME communities who had been most reluctant to take up the offer of vaccination.

Plans have also been created to help tackle low uptake in certain areas by working with local community champions, third sector organisations and faith leaders. These plans include door-knocking and speaking to people on their doorsteps.

All this comes against the backdrop of new Government figures revealing more than half of the UK’s total population has received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

But as we continue to move down the age groups as part of the vaccine roll-out, this in itself will come with new challenges to encourage people to get their jab.

Reports from the Office for National Statistics suggest that one in eight 16 to 29-year-olds said they were hesitant about the vaccine. Findings such as these are sure to have guided the Government’s new campaign urging under-50s to get the jab when invited, with the goal remaining to offer a vaccine to all adults in the UK by the end of July.

Healthwatch Leeds launched a survey to find out from younger people about how they feel they have been impacted by the pandemic and these responses are crucial to shaping what happens next.

Questions raised by younger people about the jab are likely to be very different to those of their parents and grandparents.

A well-considered approach will be needed when it comes to these ‘Gen Z’ citizens in order to drown out the misinformation being spread via social media channels.

So while we continue to edge slowly towards freedom, it is vital that health chiefs look at how they are going to tackle hesitancy and start to shape the narrative towards younger people.

We all still need to play our part in the fight against Covid. And despite these significant milestones in the vaccine effort, the battle is still far from over.

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