Final vaccine push required

HOW to convince young people of the need for vaccination to protect both themselves and those around them from Covid-19?

More than 16 months into the pandemic, no-one should be in any doubt about the ongoing threat posed to public health.

Covid has dominated the news agenda throughout this period and the daily ticker of deaths and new cases has been a grim reminder of the human cost.

Authorities had been rightly proud of the rapid progress in inoculating the adult population after the first vaccines became available to vulnerable groups earlier this year.

But as the rollout reached younger cohorts, take-up levels dropped.

Despite further warnings yesterday that those being treated in hospital with Covid include unvaccinated young people, the message is not being heard.

Almost four out of 10 people aged 18-29 have yet to take up the offer of a vaccine, as well as more than a quarter of those aged 30-40.

Northern Ireland's overall rates have fallen behind Britain and the Republic, with around 76 per cent of adults south of the border now fully vaccinated compared to 72 per cent in the north.

Different approaches have been employed by governments to combat complacency, from incentives to turn up for jabs to restrictions on travel or entertainment without proof of vaccination.

The first approach was evident in west Belfast yesterday, where Feile an Phobail were offering tickets for a popular music night to the first 500 people who received a Pfizer jab at Falls Park.

Despite an early morning queue, numbers dwindled as the day went on and only 154 ultimately took up the offer.

While festival organisers are to be commended for the initiative, evidence from across the border appears to suggest a firmer approach could be effective.

When pubs and restaurants reopened in the Republic last week, it was on the basis that customers would have to show proof they have received both jabs.

Despite some initial scepticism, authorities have expressed delight at the response as more than 30,000 people attended walk-in clinics at the weekend.

As we report today, Stormont is now weighing up the benefits of following suit.

While agreement would not be politically straightforward, the reality of cancelled cancer operations due to Covid pressures makes the case for further intervention compelling.

Having come so far together, a final push is now required if all the hard work is not to be in vain.