Opinion

Why are Wales’ young people less likely to come forward for the vaccine – and what can be done?

22 Aug 2021 5 minutes Read
Nefyn’s Ty Doctor surgery worked with Botwnnog’s Rhydbach and Pwllheli\’s Treflan practices to deliver doses of the Pfeizer vaccine. Picture by Dr. Eilir Hughes.

Dylan Jones, Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences at Bangor University

One of the major success stories of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the development and rollout of several highly successful vaccines. The names of these vaccines have become household names in a way that precious few discoveries have never been.

Since the first vaccine was approved for the UK in December 2020 a mass-vaccination campaign in Wales has seen over 4.4 million doses of vaccines administered giving a degree of protection to 84% of the adult population.

84% of the adult population is a phenomenal number and by ensuring so many of our people have a degree of protection has begun to have a rapid impact on the number of hospitalisations and serious illness because of the virus.

The statistic however does hide some significant differences between age groups which is a cause of some concern. For example whilst 80.5% of those aged 40-49 have received both doses of vaccine, only 62% of those aged 18-29 have received both doses.

Why should this be a concern? Whilst the risk of severe disease and death is relatively low in younger individuals, the risk still exists. Indeed, we are starting to see an increase in the number of young people who are now presenting with the virus and now over a third of positive cases are in people under the age of 30.

Why are we seeing such a discrepancy in vaccination rates? This is a difficult question to answer fully but scientists have a system known as the 3 Cs to try and understand why vaccine uptake can vary in a population.

Misinformation

The first of the C’s is confidence. Confidence in the science behind the vaccine, confidence in the doctors who treat those who are ill and even confidence in the institutions which test and assess the vaccines are safe.

Unfortunately, this confidence can be damaged in many individuals by lies and half-truths spread from person to person increasingly by social media.

Whilst many would argue that social media is a force for good in allowing old friends and family to stay connected, it is undoubtedly true that social media has a dark side. It is far too easy to post deliberate misinformation on social media platforms which can then be spread simply with a click.

Given how social media works, once an individual has shared some anti-vax material, they are more likely to be shown more such material due to the algorithms that do their best to ensure we spend as much time on the platform as possible. This is how the so-called echo chambers start.

It is evident that social media companies are reluctant to police such material on their platforms so perhaps it is time that Government reviews legislation to ensure that action can be taken to persuade the companies to reduce the torrent of misinformation that is shared.

Convenience is the next factor to consider, or more simply how easy is it to get vaccinated? One of the striking features of the Covid-19 vaccine is simply how easy it is to get. The opening of mass-vaccination centres that were open early and closed late and the number of walk-in style appointments have made it easier for those who work, care or may be in full-time education to get vaccinated.

Another major tick in the convenience box, which I think we often take for granted, is the cost of the vaccine to us as individuals – namely £0. This means the vaccine is affordable to all and that no one should face the indignity of being priced out of medical care.

Risk

Perhaps the C that is most relevant when questioning the vaccine uptake in the young is complacency. Covid-19 has been sold by many as a condition that only causes serious disease and a risk of death in the elderly.

Whilst it is true that a significant proportion of those who have died of the virus have been elderly, this does not mean there is no risk for younger individuals. This misunderstanding can be deepened by an individual’s view of themselves as being fit and healthy and therefore more likely to be able to fight off any infection. This is where strong, positive messages are required to highlight the benefit of vaccines for all ages.

Added to this we have had the tales of adverse effects such as blood clots after the vaccine which has made many people believe they would rather risk the virus than risk the vaccine.

There is a lesson here on how relative risk is communicated to the people, it is vital of course for confidence that we be open and transparent.

But it is just as vital that we explain how likely anyone is to experience these adverse effects so that people can make an informed decision.

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Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago

I’m one of the people he refers to here. I’ve decided not to take it, and won’t take it. Its my body my choice. I don’t take that much heed of what is written on the Internet or of what academics or journalists say. I do however know that the vaccine has been rushed and SOME aspects of COVID have been exaggerated. My main reason not to take it is I feel it hasn’t been tested long term sufficiently and unless they’ve already invented a time machine that is not misinformation but a horological truth. I’m not a covid denier… Read more »

Shan Morgain
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

It’s welcome to read your thoughts as we do not hear much about your point of view. Yes it is your body and your choice. But in choosing not to protect yourself you make yourself likely to catch it – and infect others. You may well survive, and so will some of those others although there is the likelihood of ‘long covid’ living with heavy flu and exhaustion in the long term. Some you infect though will be vulnerables – pregnant women, people with heart and blood conditions, many other health conditions. Do you have the right to spread this… Read more »

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  Shan Morgain

You could argue that about any dangers in life. From cars to mountain rescuers or even Abortion. Life is a risk. If I feel I’m going to be knocked over one day by a car, I don’t request all drivers not to drive on that day for my benefit. Just like if someone is really worried about getting covid, it’s their responsibility. Anyhow, there’s conflicting evidence to suggest the vaccinated prevent infection. I could turn your argument around, say in the unlikely event I do get ill from this vaccine, are the paranoid vaccinated going to compensate me? It should… Read more »

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

(I should have said delayed taking it in original comment, but if Covid declines to such an extent I properly won’t take it.)

Shan Morgain
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

Llewelyn your example about drivers is interesting. We do in fact demand drivers stay on one side of the road, not drive on the pavement, observe speed limits, not drive when drinking. So we do demand those who share our spaces accept restrictions in order to protect us. Similarly we expect people using public toilets to wash hands. Catering staff must not touch faces while working. Same principle. None of us live in solitary bubbles. We are all at risk from each other. Acting as individuals without regard for others’ needs is barbarism (though most barbarians so-called are pretty ‘civilised’… Read more »

Hannergylch
Hannergylch
1 month ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

COVID-19 vaccines were developed faster than previous vaccines for three reasons: 1. It’s technically easier to make an mRNA or an adenoviral vaccine than it is to make the older types of vaccine. Since the immunogen (SARS-Cov2 S-protein) is made directly in your body by your own protein-synthesis machinery, many fiddly and error-prone manufacturing steps are bypassed — the stuff that you’re actually jabbed with is not much different from stuff you’ve encountered before. In contrast, older vaccine development and production schemes required elaborate purification steps &/or detoxification/attenuation steps, all of which had the potential to diminish the immunogenicity of… Read more »

Shan Morgain
1 month ago

I was disappointed when Covid started that my new young friend refused her vax. We were just getting to know each other and I don’t make friends easily. But I am too vulnerable and so is my husband to risk being around anyone who is not vax safe. I thought that was a shame. A year later my friend now tells me she has caught Covid. She’s had 6 weeks so far of feeling ghastly. Like the worst hangover ever only every day nonstop. She may be in for long Covid with months even years of it. She;’s also lonely… Read more »

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago

The youth seem to be up for inoculation now. I don’t know why, but there are long queues for jabs just up the street from my place, composed entirely of teens and twenties.
If we soon see a drop in rates, here is the reason.

David
David
1 month ago

For those who are against having a Covid vaccine jab, do they also reject having a Tetanus/Small Pox/Meningitis/Typhoid/MRS etc vaccine jabs?

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  David

No, because they are well tested inoculations. The very reason many like me aren’t having it, is nothing to do with misinformation and all to do with the time scale of development. It’s a shame the author is describing covid 19 vaccine hesitancy as a broad anti vax argument. One would ask if he does this broad brushing in all his opinions on other topics too? We spent years trying to reduce stereotypes of people in society and now we have politicians and academics trying to reintroduce them. Many many people who have not had the vaccine are not anti… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Llewelyn
David Russell
David Russell
1 month ago

In Austalia young people are to be forced to take the shot and they, nor their parents will have any say in the matter. I fear it will be implemented here also along with other Draconian measures. Communism is alive and kicking here in the western world. Democracy is dead. Here in the UK Boris and his cronies have absolute power with no other parties to oppose them.
To think the best of Britons fought and died in their misguided belief they were fighting for our freedom.They were sadly lied to.

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
1 month ago
Reply to  David Russell

A reasonable statement, and you get two down votes. Says a lot about the types of people out there.

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