The NHS has partnered with YouTube on a multi-million pound campaign to persuade young people to “join the millions already vaccinated” as part of the next wave of defence against Covid-19.
Adverts encouraging young people to accept vaccines when offered to avoid a return to lockdown activities, including being restricted to swimming triathlons in paddling pools and partying over webcam ,will run on the video platform, in the press, on billboards, bus stops and across social media.
The adverts will remind viewers to follow Government and NHS guidance and to treat the messages as informational purposes rather than medical advice.
All under-40s in the UK will be offered alternative jabs to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine following a further review of a link with rare blood clots, the medical regulator said earlier this month. Similar advice was issued for the 18 to 29 age group in April.
People aged between 16 and 29-years old were the age group reported as most hesitant about receiving the vaccine, with close to a quarter (23 per cent) saying they did not feel coronavirus was a personal risk, a recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey of 18,112 British adults found in March.
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok have been criticised for allowing anti-vaccination champions, content and adverts to circulate on their platforms throughout the pandemic.
More than one in four of the most-viewed coronavirus-related videos in spoken English on YouTube contained misleading or inaccurate information, researchers writing in the BMJ Global Health journal found in May last year.
YouTube has more than 2bn users worldwide, equating to around one-third of all internet users, making it an incredibly powerful tool for individuals or groups seeking to spread fake news.
The company said it had removed more than 800,000 videos containing misinformation about the virus between March 2020 and March 2021, and pledged to crack down on misleading vaccine content in October last year.
Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director for primary care at NHS England, said the campaign was a good way to reassure people – particularly younger generations – that the vaccine was safe, simple and effective.
“NHS staff have pulled out all the stops to deliver the success of the vaccine programme so far, and I urge everyone to book in for a vaccine when you are eligible,” she said.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, said vaccines remained the best way to beat the pandemic and protect the public from Covid-19.
“The NHS has done an incredible job to vaccinate more than 35m people so far with at least one dose in order of age and clinical risk. Younger adults will soon be offered their vaccines and I encourage everyone to get their jab when eligible so we can stay on top of this virus, protect those most at risk, and get back to a normal life including travelling and being with your friends.”