Vaccine drop-in clinics could be set up outside busy pubs, bars and restaurants across Scotland, after the country’s vaccination programme ground to a near standstill among young adults.

Critics said more “creative” ideas were urgently needed to encourage 18 to 39-year-olds to accept doses, with a refusal to take up an offer of vaccination among younger groups potentially putting Scotland’s planned Freedom Day on Aug 9 at risk.

The slowing pace of the rollout means that the SNP is set to deliver a “triple whammy” of missed targets, the Scottish Tories warn, including the crucial goal of having all adults double jabbed by Sep 12. 

If current trends continue, the target would be missed by more than 600,000 people, the analysis found. 

A goal of fully vaccinating all 40 to 49-year-olds by Monday will also be missed, with around a quarter yet to receive both doses. The programme will also fall well short of a target of fully vaccinating everyone in their 30s by Aug 20 on current trends.

Go where the young people are

The Telegraph understands that health boards have been ordered by SNP ministers to set up vaccine centres “where young people are”, amid mounting concern about acceptance rates. 

Senior sources indicated that the Scottish Government would support setting up hubs outside popular nightspots, with hospitality venues now allowed to open until midnight.

The NHS has recently rolled out mobile jab centres in an effort to increase vaccination rates among younger groups. However, there are concerns about a lack of evening clinics and decisions over where the buses are being sent.

A mobile vaccination centre was sent to a car park at IKEA on the outskirts of Edinburgh at the weekend, but staff were pictured with nothing to do after few turned up. 

In Glasgow, vaccine buses will be sent to the city’s three largest football stadiums this week, but health chiefs faced questions after deciding to send it to Ibrox stadium on Tuesday rather than on Saturday to coincide with a Rangers fixture which 17,000 fans are attending. 

SNP ministers have so far said they are sceptical about adopting Boris Johnson’s plan for compulsory vaccine passports at nightclubs and other large events, in a bid to encourage young people to accept doses. 

Better engagement

Stephen Reicher, a University of St Andrews academic and a member of the Sage subcommittee advising on behavioural science, said he believed vaccine passports would backfire, but backed the idea of setting up clinics outside bars.

“The best way to improve take-up is through engagement,” he said. “Go to communities rather than wait for them to come to you. Treat people’s doubts with respect, listen to them and answer them; use community members and leaders to communicate.

“For instance, for all the talk of green passes [vaccine passports] in Israel, engagement policies, such as having mobile vaccination units outside bars in Tel Aviv, probably played a bigger part in getting young people jabbed.” 

Despite repeated calls from politicians such as Nicola Sturgeon for young people to accept vaccinations, the latest figures suggest the current approach is falling short.

238,000 unvaccinated youngsters

There remain around 238,000 unvaccinated 18 to 29-year-olds in Scotland, around a third of the total, but only around 1,100 received their first dose on Saturday. 

Across all age groups, only 2,006 first doses were administered on Saturday, Public Health Scotland figures show. It was the lowest daily figure since Jan 4, when the vaccine programme was in its infancy. 

Linda Bauld, professor of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, said an incentives programme, which could see people entered into a competition or lottery if they accept a jab, could be looked at. In some parts of the world, lotteries or even direct payments have been rolled out to people who accept vaccinations.

“We could certainly trial an incentive programme to increase vaccine uptake among younger adults who have not yet come forward, even though the evidence for whether it would work or not would be limited,” Prof Bauld said.

“As with many things in public health a combination of approaches is what is needed here. Frequent and accessible communications including on social media, convenient locations and opening hours, drop ins and reminders that proof of vaccination will be required for international travel, for example.”

Creative ideas

In Glasgow, there are currently no drop-in clinics in the city centre boundaries or the West End, a popular area with students and young professionals. The health board said it was looking at possible city centre sites and was in talks with universities about student vaccination schemes.

Annie Wells, health spokeswoman for the Scottish Tories, said: “It is time for the SNP to finally start coming up with more creative ideas in order to boost Scotland’s vaccination rollout. 

“The slowing down in recent weeks is threatening the easing of restrictions, yet SNP Ministers seem devoid of any answers on how to change this trend.

“While it is welcome that there will be a drop-in centre outside Ibrox, serious questions remain how many people will make the journey to the stadium on a day when a match is not taking place.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “As the Health Secretary said recently, the Scottish Government is considering a more proactive approach to encourage vaccine take-up among younger people.

“There is a wide range of places to get vaccinated including at drop-in mobile centres which have visited a range of sites such as football grounds, parks, workplaces and shopping centres.”