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Young people, herd immunity and a jollier Christmas is in your hands | Sean O’Grady

Young people, herd immunity and a jollier Christmas is in your hands | Sean O’Grady
One of the few heartening aspects of the continuing Covid crisis has been the way that so many young people are coming forward to take the vaccines

Will the nation’s 16- and 17-year-olds take up the offer of a Covid jab? The signs are encouraging. One of the few heartening aspects of the continuing Covid crisis in recent weeks has been the way that so many young people are coming forward to take the vacinas as soon as they can, or at least with the minimum of delay (they have busy lives).

Maybe a few will need a little incentive to make the effort – a free Uber ride or a complimentary snack – but their sense of public duty, and self-preservation, is admirable. They have, mercifully, not had their heads turned by hysterical anti-vaxxers such as Piers Corbyn and David Icke, whose opinions and behaviour are so ridiculous that they actually manage to discredit lunacy.

Vaccine sceptics – I’m being polite here about the ones who don’t think it’s a mind control conspiracy – often ask what is the point of vaxxing young folk when they rarely suffer badly from Covid and it’s an “experimental” jab. Fair questions. It’s certainly an experimental jab in the sense that most medical treatments are still in the experimental stage – we cannot know what the long term consequences of anything will be because we cannot foretell the future. I do not know yet whether the BCG inoculation I received when I was 12 will one day turn round and bite me, por exemplo, but there we are.

What we can know now is that many millions of doses have been administered and with few side effects, and even fewer long term or debilitating side effects. The authorities take the risks seriously, which is why they openly favour the Pfizer vaccine for the under 30s, on the balance of risks and with an abundance of caution. They are not, as some of the anti vaxxers would have us believe, engaged in a process of population control/depopulation.

The Covid vaccines did have an accelerated development programme for obvious reasons, and they are innovative, but their effects were studied and they’ve been administered at unprecedented scale. The short and long term consequences of catching the coronavirus, por contraste, are known only too well and are rather more certain.

As to the young having no selfish incentive to take the vaccine, that is mostly true, but it doesn’t stop them wanting it. There seems to be more evidence emerging that they don’t suffer long Covid. They take the vaccine to help protect the rest of us, the community as a whole and, a little less altruistically maybe, the well-being of their loved ones. When vaccinated they may still spread the virus, but their infectiousness is much reduced. If they do transmit the virus to another person then, if that person is vaccinated, there is less chance of that person becoming very poorly or dying. In other words there is less chance of a teenager finishing off gran by giving her a hug. Natal 2021 should be a much jollier affair than the last miserable one: another incentive to get jabbed.

Teenagers also understand how herd immunity works and that the greater the proportion of the population is vaccinated the safer we all are, and the sooner we can all return to something like normal. I’d still like to see employers, shops, restaurantes, barras, stadia, clubes, cruise ships and the rest all have the option of offering quality-assured Covid-secure environments by requiring those involved to have a full double jab vaccination and a negative test before entry.

This is a matter of consumer choice, and would be purely market driven. It could work well in the hospitality sector. A hotel that offered such guaranteed Covid-secure status might be able to charge a premium for those who want such a service because, like me, they choose to be cowed by the illness. Other hotels could be more laissez faire and appeal to the devil-may-care libertarians, the sort of place you might find Nigel Farage, Claire Fox and Laurence Fox (no relation) propping up the bar and Tim Martin pulling the pints, all mask free and carefree. It would be purely a matter of choice as to which you, the punter, would book into, with no officials forcing the pace.

It wouldn’t be an ideal set-up, this kind of separation in society, but it would be much less likely if all those young enough to get a jab safely – and safety comes first – were to help stop the coronavirus spreading and mutating. Other countries vaccinate the over 12s with parental consent, and so could Britain. It would protect schools and mean less disruption to education from local outbreaks. It seems we are moving in that direction. I still think we unlocked too early, but just for once, I’m optimistic that herd immunity and all the protection it brings, will soon be with us.