Young people often – and with good reason – perceive the government to be in opposition to them, constantly punching down, and the pandemic has lent plenty of credence to this perception.
As the pandemic has gone on, criticisms of young people have lost any sense of concern for public health: most controversially, an anonymous government minister accusing students of “lying in bed” while claiming the pandemic unemployment payment.
The government’s decision this week to roll out vaccines to young people sooner than expected should have been an opportunity to mend fences.
However, with accusations of hypocrisy rife from young hospitality workers, it is easy to see the announcement as an example of the government panicking.
The government firstly mooted that hospitality staff – many of whom are young and unvaccinated – would be required to serve vaccinated customers upon the re-opening of indoor dining.
The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly then set in motion a trail of miscommunication between the government, the Irish Pharmacy Union and individual pharmacies as he announced the rollout of vaccines for 18 to 34 year olds, not through media release or press conference, but on RTE’s Morning Ireland programme on Friday.
Yesterday, the HSE admitted that there may not be enough Johnson & Johnson vaccines to meet the demand from the 18-to-34-year-old cohort. So why the free for all, then?
Accelerating the vaccine rollout as much as possible makes sense given the looming threat of the Delta variant. But why were young people simply told to ring their local pharmacy and hope for the best, rather than simply opening up the vaccine portal that has been used thus far for other age groups?
The government’s response seems improvised and hurried – not a gesture of support for young people, but rather a scramble to cover itself and the re-opening that has put young people at a disadvantage once again.
When the time came to protect parents and grandparents, young people did what they had to do. Now, the days of “we’re all in this together” seem long gone.