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Exclusive: Internal government polling seen by PoliticsHome has exposed significant shortfalls in the vaccine programme for teenagers, which forms a key part of the government’s strategy for not returning to Covid restrictions.
Polling conducted by YouGov, commissioned by government and distributed privately in Whitehall this week, showed that half of parents of 12-15-year-olds say their child has not yet been invited for a vaccine.
NHS England set a target to ensure that most 12-15-year-olds receive an invitation for a vaccine by October half-term, which began on Monday last week.
The polling also showed that 16% of parents in that age group say their child has been invited for a vaccine, but will not take one up. Nearly two thirds of parents said they would allow their child to have the vaccine. The findings come as daily Covid-19 case numbers in the UK have regularly exceeded 40,000 in recent weeks.
PoliticsHome understands that there is a worry within government about the shortfall in vaccines for teens, with a significant number believed to have been exposed to the virus.
A Whitehall source told PoliticsHome: “There are worries that young pupils could bring the virus home to loved ones because lots have been exposed to coronavirus. How can young kids understand the risks?”
The poll also found that in the overall population, the number of people who have already received a vaccine, or intended to get one, remains high and largely stable.
It showed that vaccine hesistancy remains an issue, but the number of people unsure about getting a vaccine is unchanged at 5%. Resistant and rejector segments – people who are actively refusing to get a vaccine – sit at 3% and 1% respectively.
Barriers for parents of 12-15-year-olds have been cited as concerns over side effects and safety, and a belief Covid presents a low risk to children.
The number of children dying from Covid is significantly lower than in older age groups, but concerns about community transmission via children, as well as the long term effects of Covid, remain.
Safety and balance of risk are are cited as the main reasons parents give say their child is refusing to accept a vaccine.
While the poll showed higher rates of hesistancy for teenagers, it also found that 80% of UK adults said they would have a booster vaccine if offered one, or have already had one.
The latest internal government polling of BAME people showed that the proportion reporting they have been vaccinated or would take up a vaccine if offered has remained broadly consistent.
The proportion of ethnic minorities having had a second dose is now on a downward trend, which was believed to reflect a general levelling off among the wider UK population in recent weeks.
Internal government documents state that further investigations are needed to determine whether perceptions may be becoming further entrenched.
The Department for Health has been contacted for comment.
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