Nearly 31 million people in the UK have had at least one dose of the COVID vaccine but new data suggests vaccine hesitancy is higher for younger people.
Overall positive vaccine sentiment among the British population has risen to 94% in March from 78% in December, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Some 6% of 17,200 respondents reported vaccine hesitancy between 17 February and 14 March – down from 9% of respondents during the previous data collection period.
But the data also showed that younger adults, parents with young children, unemployed people and renters reported higher levels of vaccine hesitancy compared with the general population.
The ONS defined hesitancy as adults who have refused a vaccine, say they would be unlikely to get a vaccine when offered, and those who responded “neither likely nor unlikely”, “don’t know” or “prefer not to say” when asked.
What does the data show?
One in eight adults aged 16-29 reported vaccine hesitancy in the latest data period – down from 17% between 13 January and 7 February.
Eleven per cent of parents with a dependent child younger than five years old reported hesitancy, compared with 16% in the previous data period.
Some 12% of adults in the most deprived areas of England reported hesitancy, compared with 3% of adults in the country’s least deprived areas, the ONS said.
Watch: 'Progress' made on vaccine hesitancy
This was a drop from 16% and 7% respectively from the previous data period.
Some 14% of unemployed people reported hesitancy, compared with 6% of people who were employed or self employed, and hesitancy was reported by 10% of renters.
About a fifth (22%) of black or black British adults reported hesitancy – half the 44% who reported hesitancy previously between 13 January and 7 February.
This was the highest level in all ethnic groups, with 13% of adults in the Asian or Asian British group reporting hesitancy and 12% of those with mixed ethnicity.
It comes after Sir Lenny Henry wrote a letter urging black Britons to get jabbed, acknowledging their “legitimate worries and concerns” but imploring them to trust the facts from the nation’s professors, doctors and scientists.
'A desire to return to normality'
Later this month, Boris Johnson is set to announce more details on a scheme to introduce domestic vaccine passports, which would require people to show proof they have had the jab before entering various establishments.
It is thought that by introducing the scheme for entry into places where younger people are more likely to go – including at pubs, restaurants and music venues – the government may be able to encourage more youngsters to receive the vaccine.
Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), several medical experts said that vaccine passports may increase the uptake “as part of a collective desire to return to ‘normality’.”
They added: “Moreover, individuals may realise that vaccinated individuals do not suffer from adverse effects leading to higher perceived benefits than risks.”
However, the experts also warned that vaccine passports may have the opposite effect by contributing to vaccine hesitancy.
In the opinion piece, the medics wrote that anti-vaxxers “may portray vaccine passports as coercive measures of the global vaccination plan to control the population and violate privacy”.
They also highlight a lack of global endorsement on one particular vaccine, which could lead to questions around which jab is the most effective and able to battle variants better.
The medics wrote: “A key issue in relying on individual consumer choice weakens the ability of governments to vaccinate large percentages of their populations…these factors can exert negative influences on hesitant individuals and may subsequently lower immunisation rates.”
Clare Wenham, of the London School of Economics, warned that allowing more freedoms for those who have been vaccinated would contribute to the creation of a “two-tier system” which could “lead to civil unrest”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said today that the British instinct could be against using vaccine passports if coronavirus is brought properly under control.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Starmer indicated that there could be opposition to the idea amongst the public if death rates are near zero and hospital admissions are very low.
It comes as hospitality and retail bosses warned that the use of vaccine passports or certification for customers entering venues could create “legal concerns” and enforcement problems for businesses.
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