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Younger children ‘more hesitant than older teenagers to get COVID vaccine’ amid calls for better messaging

Written by on 27/09/2021

Researchers are calling for better messaging about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines after a study showed younger children were more hesitant than older teenagers to receive a jab.

The survey suggests that those young people who believe they have already had coronavirus are more likely to opt out of having a vaccine.

The study was carried out in schools across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Merseyside between May and July this year.

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Vaccine as the rollout extended to those aged 12 to 15

The findings by researchers at the University of Oxford, University College London (UCL) and the University of Cambridge follow the government’s confirmation earlier this month it would widen the vaccination programme to all 12 to 15-year-olds.

More than 27,000 students in England, aged between nine and 18, took part in the survey which showed that 50% were willing to have a coronavirus vaccination, 37% were undecided while 13% wanted to opt out.

Just over a third (36%) of nine-year-olds were willing to have a jab, compared with 51% of 13-year-olds and 78% of 17-year-olds.

The team of researchers said younger people who are less willing to have a vaccine often come from the most deprived backgrounds and feel less connected to their school community.

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They are calling for more resources to be provided to communities to ensure young people feel the vaccine is safe – and said consideration should be given to positive health messaging being shared by trusted sources on social media.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told a Science Media Centre briefing the study highlights “that we’ve actually missed this really important group in making sure they have access to information”.

“And of course they don’t access their information by reading the newspaper or watching broadcast news,” he added.

“A lot of it is through social media. We have some work to do in order to improve that.”

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Prof Chris Whitty: Unvaccinated children are likely to get COVID

Dr Mina Fazel, association professor in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Oxford, said: “The young people we’ve spoken to are saying that we need to use social media channels. That maybe celebrities getting involved might be a route that they would listen to more.

“I’m also very interested in how to use TikTok. We open the door to any kind of influencers – major influencers, minor influencers – who want to learn more about these findings in order to provide information in their medium.”

Russell Viner, professor of child and adolescent health at UCL, said: “Our findings suggest it will be essential to reach out and engage with young people from poorer families and communities with lower levels of trust in vaccination and the health system.

“Scotland is offering young people the ability to drop into any vaccination centres, and I think those kinds of policies, aligned with the school policy, are the best way for us to offer the choice to all young people.”

 Sky News

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