Nicola Sturgeon has warned that people refusing Covid vaccinations risk derailing Scotland’s Freedom Day timetable, amid mounting evidence that a significant number of younger adults are rejecting jabs.
The First Minister on Tuesday made a desperate plea for younger adults to take up the offer of vaccinations, as new figures showed that in parts of Scotland almost half of 18 to 29-year-olds have not yet accepted a dose despite all adults being offered an appointment.
There is growing alarm in both the UK and Scottish Governments about the uptake among younger generations, despite almost universal acceptance rates among over-50s.
Younger people are believed to be refusing vaccinations for a combination of reasons, including concern over side-effects, the inconvenience of attending clinics, and because many of their peers who caught Covid-19 did not become seriously ill.
Experts fear that having large sections of the public unvaccinated risks the development of new variants, which could potentially evade vaccines.
Ms Sturgeon warned at a coronavirus briefing that Scotland’s proposed Freedom Day on August 9 could be delayed if uptake among some groups remains low.
“Every individual that is vaccinated represents a wee step forward on the road back to normality,” she said. “Conversely, every time we’ve got somebody who could be vaccinated who’s not, there’s a vulnerability there to this virus that potentially holds back our progress.
“To put it bluntly, each and every young person who gets jagged helps us take a step back to normality, and of course the converse of that is true.”
Mobile and drop-in vaccination centres have been deployed in an effort to encourage young people to get vaccinated. However, recent internal polling commissioned by the SNP Government suggests that only a minority of younger people who have not yet had a vaccination plan to accept one.
The UK Government has said it will deploy vaccine passports in venues such as nightclubs, in part to encourage uptake, but Ms Sturgeon said on Tuesday that no decision had yet been taken about whether the controversial scheme would be adopted in Scotland.
11 per cent of Scots remain unvaccinated
Nationwide, around 11 per cent of Scots have not yet been vaccinated, although uptake drops drastically among younger groups.
Among 18 to 29-year olds, 30 per cent are yet to accept a dose, while a fifth of those in their 30s are unprotected.
Ms Sturgeon added: “Every adult has been offered an appointment by now, so the gap between 90 per cent 100 per cent uptake is people not coming forward for appointments.
“And therefore, it is really important that we continue to chip away at that literally on a day to day basis, and encourage people to come forward.”
However, opposition parties have said that the Scottish Government and health boards can do more to make it easier for people to get vaccinated.
The NHS Louisa Jordan emergency hospital, Scotland's largest vaccination hub at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, closed at the weekend
Credit: Jane Barlow/PA
In Glasgow, Scotland’s largest vaccination hub was closed at the weekend. There are no drop-in clinics within the city centre boundaries or in the West End, which is popular with students and young professionals. Meanwhile, several of the drop-in centres close at 3pm.
In the city, which has the lowest vaccination uptake figures in Scotland, 42 per cent of men under 29 are yet to accept a vaccine, with uptake rates across the country lowest among males and in larger cities. Under 60 per cent of younger men have accepted doses in Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said: “Nicola Sturgeon has to stop mincing her words and tell it straight.
“The SNP’s slow progress is risking the planned easing of restrictions on August 9. The First Minister should be honest with people, instead of dancing around the issue.
“It is vital for the easing of restrictions that everyone who is able to get the vaccine does exactly that.”
Majority of Covid-positive admissions are among the young and unvaccinated
Meanwhile, Nicola Steedman, Scotland’s deputy chief medical officer, confirmed that most people being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 were unvaccinated, while two-thirds of cases were among those who had not received jabs.
She said: “In terms of Covid-positive admissions, 51.6 per cent were in unvaccinated individuals, of which 70 per cent were under 40.”
Discussing the lower levels of vaccine uptake among younger people, particularly young males, she said this trend had emerged in a number of different vaccination programmes.
She said: “We often think that we are invincible when we’re younger, we think that our risk of becoming seriously ill is much less.
“With Covid that’s true, but it is not zero, it is very far from zero and young people do become seriously ill from Covid.”