Implication that ‘infections don’t matter’ could put young off Covid vaccine

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A person receives a Covid-19 jab at a pop-up vaccination centre in Langdon Park, Poplar (PA)
A person receives a Covid-19 jab at a pop-up vaccination centre in Langdon Park, Poplar (PA)

Young people could have been put off getting a coronavirus jab due to an implication that “infections don’t matter,” a leading psychologist has said.

Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews, said more must be done to make younger adults aware that vaccination is a matter of personal and social responsibility.

The expert, who sits on the government advisory group Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), called for clear and consistent messaging to signal that the pandemic is not over.

“In many ways the implication has been there that infections don’t matter,” he told Times Radio.

“So, if the health secretary can say ‘we’re going to have 100,000 cases a day, that doesn’t matter, we’re still going ahead with our policy’, and when you see reopening everywhere, it does begin to send the message that infections don’t matter.

“And in fact there’s some evidence that the young people are beginning to say ‘well, why should I get vaccinated if it doesn’t really matter, if infection doesn’t matter, why should I do things to avoid infection?’”

His comments come after a raft of new inducements were launched for younger adults to take up the offer of a coronavirus vaccine.

Around 67 per cent of people aged 18 to 29 in England have received a first dose, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

It is hoping to boost those figures with offers of vouchers and discounts for popular takeaways and taxis for those who get a jab.

Uber, Bolt and Deliveroo are among brands who will be offering incentives to encourage youngsters to get a jab.

Prof Reicher said: “I think the messaging is really critical from governments as well – it needs to be consistent, it needs to be clear.

“And it needs to be about not only the fact that the pandemic is still there and it’s necessary to do something, but this is a matter not only of personal responsibility, but a social responsibility – of doing things for others, doing things for the community so the community as a whole can reopen safely.

“I think the messaging, as well as the practical support, are key things that the government needs to be involved in.”

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