Leading article

Vaccine hesitancy worrying

It is clear we have reached yet another critical juncture in what has become a difficult and protracted Covid journey.

Lockdowns last March and earlier this year undoubtedly helped to reduce the rate of transmission but they are a very blunt instrument.

This summer we have the vaccines which have allowed relaxations to take place and the economy to begin its recovery.

But the highly infectious Delta variant has unfortunately become widespread, and we are once again seeing positive cases rise sharply and people being admitted to hospital in increasing numbers.

It is against this worrying backdrop that the Stormont Executive decided on Thursday to delay a final decision on some easements, including allowing audiences back in theatres and concert halls.

This will be disappointing for those hoping for a long awaited relaxation of measures but the executive's caution is understandable.

While the vaccine rollout programme has been a huge success, with tens of thousands of people only too willing to get their jabs, we are now getting to the hard to reach cases, those who are hesitant or reluctant for whatever reason.

Many of them are young people. Almost 44 per cent of 18-29 year olds have not been vaccinated, despite efforts by the health authorities to target key areas and offer walk-in clinics where no appointment is needed. A mobile unit was even on hand at Pairc Esler last weekend ahead of the Armagh-Monaghan match.

So the opportunity is there but the question is why are so many young people are holding back?

Although younger people are less at risk than the older, more vulnerable members of the public, Covid can still pose a threat.

As the Irish News revealed yesterday, approximately 66 per cent of Covid positive patients in hospital for the week ending July 17, were not vaccinated.

Doctors have also warned of the danger of young people suffering Long Covid, which can be very debilitating.

It is obviously in all our interests to keep case numbers down, to ease the pressure on our hospitals. Belfast trust has cancelled some orthopaedic procedures next week.

No one wants to go back to lockdown but neither can we have a free for all as the Delta variant spreads rapidly.

We need clear messaging from the executive on what may lie ahead and the steps that are being considered to tackle the rise in cases.

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Leading article