In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson could receive a coronavirus jab live on air, Downing Street has suggested, as the British government seeks to enlist celebrity “influencers” to help encourage take-up of the vaccine.
Johnson’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, said it was not something he would “rule out” but added that he would not want to jump the queue.
Johnson, 56, is expected to get the jab in the eighth wave of vaccinations, according to the prioritisation list released by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on Wednesday.
The Queen, 94, is expected to be in the second group, although Downing Street said the issue was a matter for Buckingham Palace.
It came after Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said he would be happy to be filmed taking the vaccine if it was approved, adding that it would be “worth it” if it convinced others to get a jab.
Asked whetherJohnson was also happy to receive the vaccine on camera, Stratton told reporters: “We all know the character of the Prime Minister, I don’t think it would be something that he would rule out. But what we also know is that he wouldn’t want to take a jab that should be for somebody who is extremely vulnerable … who should be getting it before him.”
Despite the UK’s medicines regulator certifying that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe to use, ministers are concerned that false anti-vaxxer propaganda online could hinder efforts to inoculate the population.
On Wednesday a YouGov poll suggested 20 per cent of Britons were either “not very confident” or “not confidential at all” that the vaccine is safe, compared to 70 per cent who believe it is. The survey of 5321 adults also found that two thirds of respondents backed Hancock taking a jab live on television.
To drive up vaccination rates, the Department for Health is drawing up a major publicity campaign which is expected to see high-profile figures recruited to raise awareness.
Whitehall sources told Britain’s Daily Telegraph that Professor Jonathan Van Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, would become the “face of vaccine deployment”, having played a leading role in drawing up the plans.
However, in order to reach out to millennials, who are among the age groups more reluctant to get vaccinated, ministers are also seeking to recruit celebrities and social media influencers to feature in the campaign.
Urging members of the public to get inoculated, Prof Van Tam warned on Wednesday evening that “low uptake” would “almost certainly make restrictions last longer”.
“Everyone wants social distancing to end, we’re fed up with it … but if you want that dream to come true as quickly as it can come true, then you have to take the vaccine when it’s offered to you,” he said. “We need people to take it – this vaccine isn’t going to help you if you don’t take it. And you will need two doses of this vacation if you are to have full protection.
“Watching others take it and hoping that this will then protect you isn’t going to work, necessarily.”
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