Are children and young people in Suffolk ready to accept Covid jabs?
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More than 40% of children and young people in Suffolk are either "unlikely" to accept a Covid-19 vaccine or "unsure" about it, according to a new survey.
In the study, carried out by Healthwatch Suffolk, 18% of those taking part said they were either unlikely or very unlikely to accept a vaccine if offered, while a further 24% were unsure.
However, a majority, 57% of those questioned, said they were likely or very likely to accept a vaccine.
The results come as discussions continue nationally over whether healthy 12 to 15-year-olds should receive a jab, after government vaccine advisors recommended against the roll-out.
More than 3,200 young people took part in the latest ‘My Health, Our Future’ (MHoF) survey (Phase Five) exploring children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing in schools and colleges.
The online survey was carried out in secondary schools and colleges from May to July this year.
Among those who were "very unlikely" to accept a vaccine, the most common reasons were worry about side effects (38%), not feeling ‘at risk’ from the virus (31%) or being worried about having an injection (26%).
One young person who has already had the jab called for more support for those with a fear of needles, saying: "My needle phobia has definitely weighed on my decision about the Covid vaccine.
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"While it hasn’t stopped me from taking up the jab, it made me feel extremely anxious and for a long time before my appointment I was unable to think about anything else."
Younger students in Years 7 and 8 were most likely to say they might not accept a vaccination, with vaccine hesitancy reducing with age.
There was also more reluctance among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students, and among students who were, or had been, in care and those who received free school meals.
Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: “The data highlights mixed opinion about vaccination acceptance and, although some young people are hesitant about having a Covid jab, it is clear many will welcome the opportunity to obtain protection from the virus if it is offered to them.
“Importantly, this data offers our health and care system an advanced opportunity to think about some of the factors likely to influence vaccine take-up amongst younger people, and to address them in local plans and thinking.
"We see emerging evidence that particular groups may be more likely to avoid vaccination if it is offered to them. This highlights the need to continue local efforts to address health inequality and ensure young people, and those around them, are supported to make an informed choice about having a jab.
"We have seen this done with some success across the adult population and this must now be replicated with young people too."
Mr Yacoub added: “We have shared our insights with many leaders and decision-makers who have responsibility for Suffolk’s ongoing response to the pandemic. We hope they can be factored into any developing plans for a rollout of the vaccines to younger age groups.”