Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has refused to rule out introducing “vaccine passports” in Scotland that would allow double-jagged people entry into bars and nightclubs – though he said he is “sceptical” about their use
Mr Yousaf said he would prefer a “positive incentive as opposed to negative incentive” to encourage more young people to come forward and receive the vaccine.
He was speaking after figures from Public Health Scotland showed about 30% of 18 to 29-year-olds and 20% of 30 to 39-year-olds in Scotland have not had their first dose of coronavirus vaccine yet – despite every adult being offered a first appointment.
Concerns have been raised about the “alarming decline” in the number of Scots being vaccinated, as the programme rolls out to younger age groups.
Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said: “If we’re going to defeat this virus we need to get the population vaccinated and 18 to 29-year-olds are the key group now.”
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, he added: “What we’ve seen is quite an alarming decline in the numbers being vaccinated.
“On Monday the daily first doses of the vaccine hit a three-month low, only 2,483 people were vaccinated with a first dose on Monday, so we are really struggling to meet this key group.”
He said requiring a vaccine passport or proof of a negative coronavirus test to attend large-scale events like nightclubs or concerts is a “reasonable proposition”.
In England, full vaccination will be a condition of entry to clubs and other venues with large crowds from September and Boris Johnson has refused to rule out applying a similar rule for busy pubs.
Mr Yousaf told Good Morning Scotland he is “naturally, instinctively sceptical” about vaccine passports, saying groups representing young people have told him of fears these could “increase the inequality gap”.
But he added: “I wouldn’t rule it out entirely.
“We are making incredible success with our vaccination programme rollout, so I would like to look at what we can do to be proactive, as opposed to denying young people entry to a pub or a night club, I would much rather think about positive incentives.
“In extremis we might have to think about what else we might need to do in order to get more of the population vaccinated, so it protects us all.
“We wouldn’t rule it out entirely, but it’s certainly something I am instinctively quite sceptical about.”
His comments came after figures from Public Health Scotland showed just under a third (32.1%) of adults in their 30s have been double-jabbed, with the figure for 18 to 29-year-olds at 20.5%.
Meanwhile 69.6% of 18 to 29-year-olds have had a first dose of the vaccine, along with 80.8% of people in their 30s.
Interim Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alistair Carmichael insisted however that a vaccine passport scheme is “probably one of the most pointless and divisive exercises you can imagine”.
He said: “They will leave behind those who are not vaccinated for good reason or otherwise.
“If you have got everyone vaccinated then, frankly, you wonder whether it would be worth the expense and hassle.
“To threaten people in order to get the vaccine I think is the wrong approach altogether and I think it would be massively divisive.”
Mr Yousaf said there are a “mixture of reasons” why some younger people have not come forward to be jabbed – including hesitancy and “misconceptions” around the vaccine.
He said: “There’s a number of young people, they think that Covid doesn’t affect them and it is something that affects older people.
“Of course that isn’t the case, it doesn’t matter what age you are, you can not only get infected with Covid but get seriously ill and hospitalised with Covid.”
He said the Scottish Government is putting a “lot of effort into messaging to tackle those myths”, as well as having health boards give out vaccinations at places popular with young people, like at football matches and in shopping centres.
But the Health Secretary said: “We’re talking about a non-mandatory vaccination, so as such we have to accept there will always be a percentage that just will not come forward.”
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