Teenagers from Blackburn with Darwen joined a round table discussion with the leader of Lancashire and South Cumbria’s vaccination programme.
Vaccination Director Jane Scattergood wanted to hear their views on the Covid vaccine, why young people were hesitant, any barriers they were facing and ideas on any improvements the NHS could make to the rollout.
Jane attended the first meeting of the Strategic Youth Alliance held at Kaleidoscope Youth Club, off Manxman Road, Blackburn. The Alliance is made up of public and third sector organisations who work with young people in the borough.
Young people attended from Blackburn Young People’s Service, Blackburn Youth Zone, Child Action North West and IMO Charity. The young people raised several issues with Jane that they felt might be impacting the rollout of the vaccinations in 12-15-year-olds including the need for more discussion and information in school about the pandemic and the vaccines, safety and side effect concerns and mixed messages about the benefits.
Muhammed Bapu, Deputy Youth MP who chaired the meeting, said: “I think it was really important that Jane came to talk to us about the importance of the vaccine and the impact the last 18 months has had. It allowed us to have a fantastic discussion about the impact it has had on young people, our communities and our country.
“It was also an opportunity for us to raise ideas and issues from our personal experience which we hope the NHS can now look at.”
One thing that was apparent from the discussions is that the NHS needs to continue to stress the safety of the vaccine.
Jane added: “The vaccine hasn’t been developed overnight. It is produced using well understood and tested technology and the medicines approval process by the MHRA, which licences all medicines in the UK, is extremely rigorous and thorough. That means we have been able to harness that new and improved technology.
“I was delighted to have been invited to meet young people from Blackburn with Darwen to discuss the vaccination programme. It was a great conversation about the issues that matter to them and I was impressed with the ideas and points of view they raised. They have given us some really important feedback that we are going to now look at.”
Amjad Rashid, a youth worker at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “I was really pleased to see health professionals come to address this issue with young people and to give them the right information.”