Pressuring young people to get vaccinated is “ludicrous”, MPs have warned, after major brands appeared to promote the jab as a condition of normal life.
Heineken last week released an advertisement depicting a nightclub full of older people, with the slogan: “The night belongs to the vaccinated, time to join them.”
Meanwhile, Teletubbies posted pictures of the popular children’s characters clutching vaccination cards, alongside the message: “Who’s ready to come out & play.”
Uptake has plateaued, with the number of first doses being administered having halved in two weeks.
On average, fewer than 100,000 a day are now being given out for the first time since April.
Approximately 58 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds have so far been immunised, and ministers are yet to announce whether the jab will be offered to under-18s.
However, on Saturday night MPs pushed back against suggestions that society would be closed to those not vaccinated.
David Jones, a Conservative former cabinet minister, said: “Heineken really ought to consider whether they're discriminating against loyal customers who maybe cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons.
“The Government does say that private companies can impose their own rules but I think it's really discriminatory and there are lots of people who can't be vaccinated, and it's quite wrong they should not be able to go into a pub and have a drink.”
It came as industry leaders warned that plans for vaccine passports will act as a de facto “fourth lockdown” for pubs by driving away trade.
Kate Nicholls, the head of UK Hospitality, described the proposed measure as “not appropriate”.
“You would be putting door control on every pub, bar, restaurant, coffee shop, hotel, nightclub and music venue in the country [to check certificates] and that’s simply not happening at the moment," she told Sky News.
“You would see high levels of business failure, high levels of business closure unless there was substantive Government support.”
Vaccine passports could be introduced by the autumn, The Times reported a Downing Street source as saying on Saturday.
Ministers have said that all over-18s will have had the chance to have both jabs by mid-September.
More than 95 per cent of the over-50s have been vaccinated. However, the rate is 76 per cent in those aged 30-34 and is now plateauing. So far 58 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 have had a first jab.
David Davis, the former Brexit Secretary, said that he wanted to drive up vaccine uptake among younger age groups. But he added: “I would be concerned if they turned round and said you couldn’t go to a nightclub if you haven’t been vaccinated.
“After July 19 that would be inappropriate. I would like to see lots of young people vaccinated but that’s their call, frankly.”
Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP, described Heineken’s advertising as “ludicrous”.
“I'm surprised they're not making recommendations in other countries given their level of vaccine hesitancy,” he said.
“They need to be encouraging our EU neighbours who are suffering.”
Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said on Saturday that there was “a long way to go” with the vaccine campaign, describing himself as confident that uptake among younger people would improve.
In Birmingham, which has a disproportionately young population, only 40 per cent of those between 18 and 29 have had a jab, according to Dr Justin Varney of Birmingham City Council.
A Heineken spokesperson said: "This is part of our #FreshBeginnings platform, which celebrates people’s return to enjoying social moments following the pandemic.
"It is all about supporting the hospitality industry and getting back to the bars and restaurants safely so we can all be together again.
"The Night is Young celebrates a group of vaccinated seniors who are able to safely get back out to enjoy bars and clubs and socialise again – something we’re all looking forward to."
Wildbrain, the media company behind Teletubbies, was contacted for comment.