Covid-19 has hit young people hard. Despite being the least likely of any group to suffer serious illness from Covid-19, we have seen our exams cancelled and our university experience taken away from us. Recent graduates have found it almost impossible to find a job, and many young professionals have spent months on furlough or sadly lost their jobs.
Jami, the Jewish community’s vital mental health service, has expressed concern that the number of young people seeking help has more than doubled since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, a reality to which we cannot turn a blind eye.
- This article has been co-written by Dan Kosky and Esther Offenberg
But as we’ve heard from the politicians and the experts, we have a light at the end of the tunnel with the arrival of the long-awaited vaccines. Like many other young people, we were both relieved to see our parents and grandparents getting their vaccine shots over the past few weeks.
However, the reality is most young people will not be offered the vaccine until at least the summer. This opens up questions. Will we be barred from summer sporting events or concerts that require proof of vaccination? What about international travel? The UK is currently only looking to vaccinate adults, whereas Israel is vaccinating anyone over 16. What does that mean for our 16 and 17-year-olds and future trips to Israel?
As we have seen in Israel, just convincing healthy young adults to take the Covid-19 vaccine has not been an easy task and we are yet to test the waters over here in the UK.
It is not uncommon to see social media posts from young people along the lines of “I will probably get vaccinated, but Covid is unlikely to harm me so I may as well wait a few months to see if the vaccine causes any long-term side effects” or “it’s enough for my parents to have it”.
Increasing vaccine uptake among younger generations won’t just be about tackling misinformation. Young people crave convenience and incentives, which the Tel Aviv Municipality tapped into very effectively. Having the opportunity to get your vaccine shot in a bar along with a free drink doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Although we are still some weeks away from opening pubs for drinks, let alone vaccinations, it can certainly motivate us to get creative about how we can pave our way back to normality as quickly as possible.
Both on a national level and within our community, we need to start thinking about vaccine hesitancy among young people and how we can tackle it. In the age of fake news and social media, it is the responsibility of us all to challenge misinformation, present the facts and ensure our community is in the best possible position to recover.
We will be kicking off this conversation in our community on 31 March at 6pm with a Facebook Live panel of medical experts, who will answer questions from young adults about the vaccine. The London Jewish Forum is running this event with communal organisations, including youth movements and campus organisations, supported by the Greater London Authority and Public Health England. We encourage any young people who have concerns about the vaccine to tune in.
We know for a fact vaccines don’t just protect ourselves, but everyone around us. If there is one thing we have learned from living through a pandemic, it is that we need each other to overcome difficult times such as these and that we need to be conscious of the responsibility we hold for our immediate and greater surroundings.