Virginia health leaders working to figure out how to reach more teens, young adults to get vaccinated

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 11:36 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As coronavirus cases continue to drop, the push to get shots to the unvaccinated is growing stronger. One segment of the population the state is really beginning to focus on is young people. Health officials say there’s not as much demand from teens and young adults to get vaccinated as they’d like to see. Now, area leaders are getting creative to figure out how to reach those young people.

If problems have solutions, the department may have found one. It’s the idea that if you want to reach the people, you have to go right to where they are.

Virginia has been on a mission to get shots into the arms of as many people will do it. It’s been working, especially among older people. Eighty percent of those 65 and up are vaccinated.

Compare that to those between the ages of 16 and 30 where the success rate is only half of that.

“We’re starting to think through how can we reach that community better,” Virginia Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said.

Avula says that’s the challenge with health districts all over the country. Now they’re working to get creative, heading to where young people are.

“I don’t know that we have maxed out our presence on TikTok or Instagram or Snapchat that might lean to a younger population,” Avula said.

Fourteen-year-old Kenya Grooms says go for it.

“TikTok. Instagram. Have memes out there to have people wanting to get it,” she said.

Now that the middle school student is eligible to get a shot, she plans to.

“It protects you but it also helps protect people around you,” Grooms said.

Part of her motivation is her 75-year-old grandmother.

“I want to keep her safe and keep her living as long as she can so I feel I should get vaccinated as well,” Grooms said.

While she doesn’t seem to need convincing, her counterparts might. Virginia’s vaccine coordinator is prepared to think out of the box to find them.

“It means doing more on-site at employers, like making it really convenient for young adults who aren’t necessarily against being vaccinated but just haven’t been compelled to make an appointment or going out of their way to get vaccinated,” Avula added.

Anyone 12 and up can get a Pfizer shot right now. A new option may be on the way. Next month, Moderna will ask the FDA to extend its shots to those 12 and over after the company says a recent trial proves it’s safe for them too.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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