An implication that “infections don’t matter” could have put young people off getting a Covid-19 jab, a leading psychologist has said.
Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at University of St Andrews, said more must be done to make younger adults aware that vaccination is a matter of personal and social responsibility.
Prof Reicher sits on the advisory group Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) which advises the Government.
He called for clear and consistent messaging to signal that the pandemic is not over. His comments come after a raft of new inducements for younger adults to take up the offer of a vaccine were introduced.
The UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said around 67% of people aged 18 to 29 in England have received a first dose, and it is hoping to boost those figures with offers of vouchers and discounts for popular takeaways and taxi for those who get a jab.
Uber, Bolt and Deliveroo are among brands who will be offering incentives to encourage youngsters to get a jab.
Prof Reicher told Times Radio: “In many ways the implication has been there that infections don’t matter.
“So, if the Health Secretary can say ‘We’re going to have 100,000 cases a day, that doesn’t matter, we’re still going ahead with our policy’, and when you see reopening everywhere, it does begin to send the message that infections don’t matter.
“And in fact there’s some evidence that the young people are beginning to say ‘Well, why should I get vaccinated if it doesn’t really matter, if infection doesn’t matter, why should I do things to avoid infection?’.
“I think the messaging is really critical from governments as well – it needs to be consistent, it needs to be clear.
“And it needs to be about not only the fact that the pandemic is still there and it’s necessary to do something, but this is a matter not only of personal responsibility, but a social responsibility – of doing things for others, doing things for the community so the community as a whole can reopen safely.
“I think the messaging, as well as the practical support, are key things that the Government needs to be involved in.”