The 2018 Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit report, Listening to the Lived Experience of Poverty in Scotland, is worth a read before passing judgement on news that just 53 per cent of young people in the most deprived areas have taken up the offer of a Covid vaccine, compared to up to 80 per cent in wealthier areas.
The vaccine might be free, but the bus fare to a vaccination centre may act as a powerful disincentive for the poorest. And rearranging an appointment to a better time or place isn’t as easy for those with limited access to the internet.
The sense of social exclusion felt by many in deprived areas – created by the inability to afford the lifestyle enjoyed by others, but also the use of language like “scroungers” to describe those on benefits – may also be playing a part.
If a society effectively excludes some of its own members, it can hardly complain when they fail to enthusiastically join in once their inclusion becomes a sudden priority.
For years, poverty in Scotland has been linked to ill-health and shorter lifespans. Recent figures showed that men living in the most deprived areas of the country were likely to die 13 years and women 10 years before their counterparts in the wealthiest areas.
Low rates of vaccination against Covid will only make that worse, particularly given the growing concern about the dangers posed by Long Covid to young people, such as multiple organ damage.
Allowing the already unacceptable health effects of poverty to increase would not only be morally wrong, but would come at a cost to society, with more people unable to fulfil their potential in life or in need of health or social care.
After years of political drift, the Scottish government has never had more compelling reasons to make tackling poverty a real priority, so that people are not virtually trapped in their homes, sometimes unable to afford food, and doomed to an early death, all while suffering the derision of others, simply because of the accident of their birth.