Shauna Bowers: It's really no surprise that young people queued for vaccines

We often speak about the Covid-19 emergency as if it only affected older people because they were most at risk of death and severe disease
Shauna Bowers: It's really no surprise that young people queued for vaccines

Kealan Foley from Kerry is in celebratory mood after getting his vaccine at a walk-in centre in Killarney.

Social media at the weekend was flooded with images of young people queuing up outside vaccination centres, arms at the ready, waiting for their jabs.

The walk-in clinics opened at 8am on Saturday morning, and audible scoffs were heard at the suggestion that 16- or 17-year-olds would be up at such an ungodly hour at the weekend, no less.

But they were. And they were out in their droves.

The scenes were celebrated by many, as older adults cheered with amazement that teenagers turned out for something which, quite simply, will save lives.

The surprise didn’t make sense, really. Of course, there were young people queuing to get vaccines. 

Of course, they were taking action to protect other people; that’s what they have done for the entirety of this pandemic.

We often speak about the Covid-19 emergency as if it only affected older people because they were most at risk of death and severe disease.

While many older people also experienced loneliness and isolation, it would be remiss of us to not acknowledge the monumental impact the past 16 months have had on younger cohorts.

Several studies from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) have shown that young people have been hit the hardest with regard to unemployment, education and mental health issues during the pandemic.

These impacts were felt largely as a result of the measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus, the vast majority of which were followed to the letter.

When discussing compliance with public health guidelines, too often has the focus been on the minority who broke the rules.

Ciara Brady, 16, from Clonakility, after her vacination, at The Clonakilty Covid-19 walk-in vaccination centre, at Clonakilty GAA Club. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Ciara Brady, 16, from Clonakility, after her vacination, at The Clonakilty Covid-19 walk-in vaccination centre, at Clonakilty GAA Club. Picture: Jim Coughlan

And with this all-too-familiar finger-wagging that has emerged in recent months, we have somewhat overlooked the vast majority of young people who have sacrificed so much.

Teenagers, by their nature, flock together. And yet, for much of the pandemic, they have stayed apart.

They’ve missed out on 18th and 16th birthday parties, school graduations, and debs. 

Opportunities to make new friends were removed, while football games were cancelled.

First kisses in empty playgrounds were delayed, as were the nervous games of spin the bottle while furtive glances were cast at the person you hoped liked you back.

And why did they do that? Considering the risk of severe Covid-19 to them is quite low, it certainly wasn’t purely out of concern for themselves. 

They did it for society.

So now, as they race to get the vaccine, it does not surprise me in the slightest that they are eager and willing; it’s true to form. 

The only difference with this action compared with every other one they have taken since March 2020 is they’re finally getting something out of it for themselves: a return to normality.

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