When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world last year, young people were affected greatly. Life moments such as proms, graduations, and other festivities were canceled, postponed or held virtually. High schools and colleges moved to remote learning, sports were cancelled and the day-to-day life as a teen and young adult filled with friends and social activities were cancelled.
As the world proceeds to vaccinate its citizens, the younger generation is more hesitant than other age groups. However, young people are fueling an uptick in COVID-19 cases around the country. Young people are also showing up more in intensive care units with life threatening symptoms and are more prone to “long COVID”. Scientists and experts agree that the only way to end the COVID-19 pandemic is by being vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Herd Immunity can only occur when a large portion of a community becomes immune to the disease, causing the spread of the disease to be more unlikely. The community, not just those protected become immune. Over the past year, young people have been portrayed as ambivalent when it comes to adhering pandemic safety protocols. Large social gatherings, parties and traveling to COVID “hot spots” were frequently displayed on social media depicting young people showing no concern for the pandemic that shut down the world in 2020.
However, more than a year after the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are experiencing “pandemic fatigue”. With the majority of states now slowly reopening, a loosening of COVID-19 protocols and social distancing, experts fear the unvaccinated will become more vulnerable. This is particularly concerning among young people. The various strands of the COVID-19 pandemic are showing up in emergency rooms across the country and younger adults are being admitted with severe disease according to CDC Director, Dr. Rocelle Walensky.
Vaccine hesitancy among young people is a challenge. It appears young people are in no hurry to become vaccinated. A recent STAT-Harris Poll discovered that 21% of young adults, 18-14 did not intend to getting vaccinate and 34% of young adults said they would “wait and see”. The risk of young people getting severely ill from COVID-19 is low; however, it is still possible for them to infect others who might. The challenge for officials is to motivate young people to become vaccinated not only for themselves but to protect others.
The Chicago Defender spoke with vaccinated teens and young adults 16-25 to hear their thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine. We wanted to know, why they decided to be vaccinated, how serious do they take this pandemic and what they wanted their peers to know.
Check out our roundtable discussion below.
Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSanders20.