Britain may be nearing maximum uptake for the Covid vaccine, top scientists fear as rates continue to slump — despite there being millions of young adults who are yet to take up the offer.
Just 100,000 first doses are currently being dished out every day, half the rate seen a fortnight ago when the drive was up and running for all over-18s.
No10’s advisers believe Britain is now ‘close to maximum take-up’, The Times reports. Around 2million 18-24 year olds are still unvaccinated.
Millions of young people are reluctant to get vaccinated against coronavirus, despite ministers pledging to scrap self-isolation rules for double-jabbed Brits and let them go on summer holidays to Greece, Spain and Italy.
And ministers also believe those jab requirements will boost uptake, it was claimed today.
Main reasons for younger people not wanting to get a vaccine revolve around Covid posing a much smaller threat to them, and misinformation circulating online.
One virologist called on ministers to increase the ‘messaging around the benefits of vaccination’.
Professor Jonathan Ball, of Nottingham University, told warned about the risk of ‘very debilitating long Covid’ in younger adults.
This graph shows the percentage of Britons in each age group who have received a first dose (green bar) and second dose (orange bar). Uptake is higher in older groups, who were invited for jabs earlier and are more at risk from the virus
Daily first doses (green bars) have tumbled by 100,000 over the last two weeks
Young people are less likely to get the Covid jab because they do not see themselves as at risk from the virus, and due to misinformation online. Pictured: Young Brit vaccinated in Doncaster
Observers first noticed the roll-out was slowing down last month, which raised fears that the slump could scupper Freedom Day plans.
The pace dropped because of the decision by Government advisers to recommend alternatives to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab for the under-40s and limited supply of the two alternatives – Pfizer and Moderna.
But now the speed of the inoculation drive may be nearing an inevitable slow down, with all over-18s having now been eligible for a jab since mid-June.
Summer holidays for the double-jabbed
Holiday firms were gearing up for a bookings surge last night as Grant Shapps prepared to announce that fully-vaccinated Britons will be free to travel abroad without having to self-isolate.
The Transport Secretary is expected to confirm today that new measures will kick in from July 19 for holidaymakers returning from amber list countries. He will confirm the move during a speech in the Commons.
It means quarantine-free holidays will be unlocked for millions of families to more than 130 countries – including the US, Thailand and most European countries.
As it stands, travellers returning from these destinations must quarantine for up to ten days – regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not.
Only travellers returning from a small list of green countries can avoid quarantine.
But the new measures will effectively turn the vast majority of countries green for double-jabbed people.
Young adults were the final group to be invited for their jabs, with the UK’s campaign initially focused on protecting the elderly.
But after an initial surge in demand which NHS bosses compared to the scramble for Glastonbury tickets, the pace has slowed.
Officials have already launched two ‘Grab a Jab!’ weekends to boost uptake, where people can turn up for their first doses without a booking.
NHS vaccination data shows 60 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds had got their first dose by June 27, while among 25 to 29-year-olds it was 73 per cent.
For comparison, 94 per cent of over-80s now have their first dose, and for 75 to 79-year-olds the rate is 90 per cent.
Professor Ian Jones, a vaccinologist at Reading University, told MailOnline younger people were failing to turn up for jab appointments because they do not feel at risk from the virus.
‘If the risk is low, as it is for younger ages, then the incentive is less, and less effort is made to go and get vaccinated, however easy that is.
‘It is also a fact that 100 per cent vaccination cannot be reached as there will always be some groups who purposefully chose not to get vaccinated or are simply indifferent to it.
‘That means there will be a tailing off in vaccination take-up and you are possibly seeing the start of that now.’
Professor Jones called on everyone to make sure they get two doses of the vaccine.
‘The main reason to get vaccinated is to prevent spread,’ he said.
‘As more and more people are immune the virus has nowhere to go and will naturally decline. But this cannot occur while a large pool of immunologically naive (those without Covid-fighting antibodies) remains.’
There have been calls for health chiefs to slash the time between doses from eight weeks because of the lower uptake.
But evidence suggests the longer gap between them may actually make them more effective at preventing infections and serious disease.
There have been reports of vaccination centres giving out second doses just three weeks after the first.
More than 45.5million Britons — or 86.4 per cent of adults — have got a first dose, and 34million — or 64.6 per cent — have received both doses.
It comes less than two weeks before most of the remaining Covid restrictions are eased in a ‘big bang’ reopening on July 19.
Boris Johnson has steamed ahead with plans to drop the measures, saying it is better to ease them in the summer before the virus ‘has an edge’.
But scientists writing in The Lancet today have called on the Prime Minister to abandon his strategy amid spiralling infections.
Estimates suggest there could be more than 100,000 in the UK before ‘Freedom Day’, as cases double every six days.
Experts had expected Covid vaccination rates in the country to be low, fearing uptake may be as low as seven in ten.
But the public has been very receptive to vaccines, with uptake above nine in ten among older age groups.