New learning materials are being distributed to schools across the capital to promote the Covid-19 vaccination programme and tackle vaccine scepticism.
Developed by Hackney teachers with input from their pupils and public health professionals, the materials are now distributed by the umbrella group London Councils for all boroughs to share with their local primary and secondary schools.
The materials were commissioned in response to boroughs’ concerns that some Londoners are hesitant about accepting a Covid-19 vaccine – with young Londoners tending to be more sceptical. Boroughs believe it is crucial to boost support for the vaccination programme among young people, as this will ease efforts to ensure as many Londoners as possible accept the vaccine and help bring the crisis to an end.
Research carried out by Hackney Council as part of the boroughs’ collaborative Keep London Safe campaign shows that young Londoners are significantly more uncertain about the Covid-19 vaccine compared to older age groups. Hackney’s survey of attitudes towards receiving a vaccine found 7% of those aged 16-24 would “definitely not” get vaccinated and 21% were “unsure”. By contrast, only 8% of respondents aged 75 and older were “unsure” – and none in this age group said they would definitely not get it.
This chimes with additional research seen by London boroughs suggesting that those who rely most heavily on social media for news and information – rather than traditional news sources such as newspapers – are more likely to be sceptical about vaccines.
Cllr Georgia Gould, Chair of London Councils, said:
“This initiative is a crucial part of our ongoing work to tackle misinformation and to help Londoners understand the importance of vaccination – which is key to keeping us all safe and eventually bringing this crisis to an end.
“Schools are playing a pivotal role in raising awareness of how vaccines work, answering young people’s questions, and turning them away from dangerous anti-vax misinformation. We want young Londoners to feel reassured and supportive when their parents and grandparents are offered a Covid-19 vaccine by the NHS. We know from our role in organising stop smoking campaigns how influential children and young people can be on their parents’ health choices.”
Jesse Hershkowitz, Head of Science at Stoke Newington School, said:
“While many of my pupils are highly enthusiastic about the vaccine, there are undoubtedly pupils who are more hesitant. This can be for all sorts of reasons – some just don’t know enough about vaccines, while others may have misconceptions about them.
“We have developed the learning materials with the help of pupils at our school. These resources are designed to improve pupils’ understanding of why the Covid-19 vaccination programme is so important. Through examining the scientific principles behind vaccination and an analysis of how the Covid-19 vaccines have been developed, we’re working to raise awareness and support for London’s vaccine roll-out.”
Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s regional director for London, said:
“Young Londoners have the potential to be important ambassadors for vaccination and these learning materials are a great resource to build their understanding about this lifesaving public health intervention.
“Making sure young people are well-informed by trusted sources is the perfect way to empower their decision-making and enable them to confidently share accurate information through their own networks. Understanding the process of developing vaccines, how they work and why they're safe and effective is vital for everyone. Young people often feel left out of important conversations, so the fact that these materials were developed with their input is brilliant.”
London boroughs are working in close partnership with the NHS to support the successful roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the capital. Borough are using their’ local knowledge and community leadership to promote vaccine take-up among all of London’s diverse communities – including through mobilising volunteers, organising community champions, and providing access to hard-to-reach groups who aren’t necessarily registered with a GP.