Will students be vaccinated when they arrive on campus?

This did not end up in the place I expected it to.

David Kernohan is Acting Editor of Wonkhe

After a bit of chat on Twitter I got to wondering whether there was any way of knowing whether the students that turn up on campus this autumn are likely to be fully vaccinated.

We have quite a useful data set showing where in England young people are likely to go to university from – POLAR4. Usually castigated for not being a proper measure of disadvantage (something it has never claimed to be) it offers a fascinating look at what proportion of 18 year olds from a Mid-level Super Output Area (quite a tiny chunk of the country) are liable to attend higher education.

And as of I think this week we are starting to get vaccination rates for these same areas from PHE. Obviously there’s nothing by age range – but it is safe to make the working assumption that where more adults are getting vaccinated more of any age-related subset of adults will be getting vaccinated. Here I’ve used full vaccination status (people over the age of 18 – or just under – who have had two shots).

Here’s what that looks like:

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Try a few local authority areas and see if you can spot the pattern.

Got it yet?

Yes – there’s a weak positive relationship between participation rates and vaccination proportions, but did you spot where the low vaccination rate areas were? That’s right – near universities.

What’s happening here is that areas where students live tend to have more young people living there – which makes perfect sense when you think about it. But we know young people are less likely to have had two doses because they’ve been eligible for less time.

And here is my first discovery – you can get the number of people with 1 or 2 jabs in each MSOA by age range from NHS England! However, this is not the proportion of eligible people in that age range… something that would arguably be of more interest. We can see, for example, that student areas with a low number of “resident” (as in, have been through the school system and thus exist in POLAR) 18 year olds have high numbers of young people who have been vaccinated – suggesting that students currently living at their term-time addresses are getting vaccinated ahead of the start of term. Which is good.

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So we can now look at where students might be coming from (POLAR) and whether young people are vaccinated for the whole of England:

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You have to squint to see it, but there is good news here for the sector. Areas with a higher proportion of 18 year olds that tend to attend higher education are more likely to see young people getting vaccines than those who do not. Note how the line of dots tends slightly away from the y axis as it rises.


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