Holiday vouchers on offer for young to boost vaccine uptake

Free taxi rides, clothes and holiday vouchers are among a range of new incentives on offer as part of a government-led push to persuade more young people to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Companies including Asda, Lastminute.com and taxi booking company Free Now will offer promotions and discounts to anyone who receives a jab in the coming weeks, ministers announced on Monday.

Sajid Javid, health secretary, urged people to “get the jab as soon as possible” and to “take advantage of these excellent offers”.

“It is fantastic to see more companies backing the phenomenal vaccine rollout and joining the public as they do everything they can to continue protecting their loved ones, themselves, their community and this country,” he said. 

The incentives are part of a drive to increase the number of under-30s signing up to be jabbed, amid concern in parts of government about vaccine hesitancy among the young.

According to NHS England data, 70 per cent of 18 to 29-years-olds have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with 90 per cent of all adults.

Experts believe that complacency over the danger of Covid-19 to younger people and worries over safety have, for now, combined to dissuade some from getting jabbed.

Research from the Office for National Statistics has found that vaccine hesitancy among the young appears to be slowly decreasing, though.

Some 11 per cent of 16-to 17-year-olds, 5 per cent of 18- to 21-year-olds and 9 per cent of 22- to 25-years olds have expressed hesitancy about having a jab. That compares with 4 per cent for the entire adult population.

Mariusz Zabrocki, general manager at taxi hailing company Free Now, which is offering up to £1 million in free taxi rides for over-18s attending their vaccine appointments, said vaccines will “restore many of the freedoms that have been limited or lost over the past two years”.

The new incentives came after the Department for Health and Social Care said all young people aged 16 to 17 in England are to be offered a first dose of the vaccine by August 23.

Ministers made a U-turn this month and extended the immunisation programme to 16- and 17-year-olds. The policy brought the UK more closely into line with other countries including the US and France.

The government has tried a range of methods to encourage vaccine uptake among younger people, including pop-up jab centres at football stadiums, festivals and London nightclub Heaven.

There have also been partnerships with celebrities and promotion on dating apps and social media, while food delivery company Deliveroo and ride-hailing apps Uber and Bolt have already pledged to offer customers incentives to be vaccinated.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has previously announced that a vaccine passport would be needed to enter a nightclub by the end of September, while earlier this month transport secretary Grant Shapps warned young people that their ability to travel freely for foreign holidays in the future will depend on getting a jab.

The UK reported another 26,750 Covid cases on Sunday, while a further 61 people died within 28 days of a positive Covid test, according to official data.