It is a little like a race. That's what I thought this morning, Sajid Javid stated last Wednesday in commenting on Britain's vaccination rollout. They have done their part. We now need their help to win in this race. We are asking for your help.
The health secretary seems to believe that young people are responsible for the pandemic response of the government. Forget about freedom day and the delayed India travel ban. This was what allowed the Delta variant to get its claws into the country. It seems that the real responsibility lies with a vaccine-reluctant generation that refuses to play its part.
Boris Johnson is apparently expressing anger at the low vaccine uptake rate. A Times editorial last month was even more explicit, referring to the shameful refusal of young people in order to get vaccinated.
Sunday Telegraphs' front page reported this weekend that shopping vouchers will be distributed in time for the beginning of the academic year to encourage youth jabs. It is important to remember that only 67% of those under 29 have received their first dose. This allegedly forced the government to pay bribes in order to increase vaccine levels.
This is classic conjurors misdirection. We should ask ourselves: What is the government trying do to distract us from this contrived controversy about supposedly feckless youths?
Young people are more reluctant to get vaccinated that the whole population. According to recent Office for National Statistics data, one in eight of those under 30 reported hesitancy. This is in contrast with the one-in-25 adult population who feels the same.
This is normal given the decreasing risk of the virus affecting our lives. However, the vast majority of young people want to be vaccinated. The ONS number does not reflect the fact that two-thirds (33%) of young adults have received a single dose, making them the most vaccined age group in the country.
This generation has been following restrictions for 16 months to ensure that people of a different age have been protected. My generation is ready to contribute to social solidarity, despite the chaos of exam-grading and the failure to admit students to university.
According to the NHS, there was a encouraging Glastonbury-style rush for online bookings when over-18s jabs were available. There were long lines at walk-in centers across England.
Many people are turning to Reddit for a faster way to receive a second dose. It is now available at four-week intervals (for Pfizer) as opposed to the eight-week wait recommended for by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
The community promotes walk-in centers, and users log their good fortune to alert others. There are many stories about desperate young people visiting multiple centres. One user was a young woman, who wanted to visit her grandfather, but needed to be double-dosed. Her partner was extremely impressed by the site.
As many of my friends, I also got my second dose from this method. Not everyone is lucky. It is possible for a walk-in to be closed one day and then close the next. Young people who have received the Moderna vaccine as a first-time event may face additional difficulties.
The number of vaccines given has fallen, it is true. Many more people would have received their second dose if the government had been more flexible with the 8-week gap. The European Medicines Agency (US Centers for Disease Control) recommends a shorter 21-day period between Pfizer jabs.
Instead of focusing on younger people as the problem, we should be focusing our efforts on the most urgent aspect of fighting Covid. That is, the need to immunise the poorer countries to stop a humanitarian disaster and prevent the emergence new variants.
Low-income countries have received only 0.3% of the doses. The UK has the highest number of spare doses per head in the world, after Canada. We have enough vaccines to fully vaccinate four times our population. The real scandal is that Britain has just begun sending its surplus vaccines to territories where they are most needed.
Only a small fraction of UK's 5m-purchased vaccines has been donated to Covax, a worldwide vaccine sharing network.
It's a matter of priorities. Stuart Rose, former M&S chairman, and Conservative peer, advocated paying 250 for young people to get vaccinated. Has it ever occurred to them that this might not be the right question? This amount could be enough to fully vaccinate healthcare workers in low-income nations, where only 1.1% have received at least one dose.
It is an issue of basic human decency. However, it is also in our best interest. If we fail to do so, a vaccine resistant variant could emerge, and everyone old and young will be back where they were. Scientists are already concerned about the Lambda variant currently raging in South America. We must act quickly.
Don't be distracted by the young who are supposedly not vaccinated. The global effort to immunise everyone, and the millions of deaths the west can prevent, should be the focus.