Whilst some may be anxious regarding the continuing high level of Covid-19 cases in the UK, some solace can be taken in the fact that the Government statistics map shows the Newcastle area to have (as of the 31st of October) fewer cases than surrounding areas like Wallsend and Whitley Bay. Vaccine rates are also remarkably high (when compared with turnout in other opt-in public schemes such as elections): 87.2% of the population eligible for the vaccination have had their first jab whilst 79.6% of the population eligible for the vaccine have had both. The high vaccine take-up is the likely reason behind no dramatic rise in Covid-19 cases during students returning to Newcastle this year, unlike 2020 in which there was an increase of 217% in cases. The take-up is not 100% however, which begs the question as to what can be done to get more people vaccinated?
It is impossible to miss the vaccination bus present on campus opposite the SU, with its cohort of volunteers waiting to give students a dose or further information regarding the vaccine. Even though the vaccine has been available for months, I have still seen plenty people queuing outside waiting for their dose. It is also not just restricted to campus, as it also parks up at other areas well-populated by students such as Chillingham Road and Osborne Road (next there on 12th November). The choice of location cannot be a coincidence; it seems to be part of a wider campaign to get students vaccinated, which is likely a by-product from the pandemic and lockdowns itself when students were believed to be major Covid-19 spreaders. Having vaccinations easily available both on campus and close to home is a clever initiative in making the vaccine accessible for all and thus helping to protect the wider community, but is it enough?
The government ruled out making vaccines compulsory for students attending lectures, due to public backlash at the time. It is little surprise to me that there was public outrage, since to make an action mandatory will almost always generate unrest. Financial incentives could be an option, but then there would be the issue of sourcing the money and also the ethical dilemma of should we essentially bribe people to take a vaccine they have hesitated to take? All we can continue to do is just make the option available to people and signpost it.