22 Sep Some Eager, Some Reluctant — Teens Reflect on the Vaccine
Here, a teen is about to get a vaccination before the pandemic. Today, some teens jumped at their first opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine, while others haven’t been so eager. (Heather Hazzan for Self Magazine, licensed under CC BY 2.0)
Commentary, Various Authors
Editor’s note: People as young as 12 can get vaccinated against COVID-19, but there is a lot of conflicting or just plain wrong information out there. Made up and misinterpreted “facts” are used to discourage anyone from getting the shot.
To get the actual facts, look to the Food and Drug Administration, which evaluates the vaccines. You can also consult trusted medical professionals and legitimate news sources. But knowing where to look, what’s right and who to believe can be confusing even for adults.
So we asked Vista High students to discuss attitudes toward the vaccine and how they learn about it. It’s part of our efforts at Richmond Pulse to share the perspectives of medical experts and regular folks in the community. You can find our COVID-19 vaccine coverage here: https://richmondpulse.org/tag/covid-19-vaccine/. The students’ responses have been lightly edited.
I have not gotten the vaccine yet, but I want to. I am scared of needles. That is the main reason why I haven’t.
I get information from articles and the news, [but] I trust what I see. Since many people I know are vaccinated, and since I see nothing wrong, I trust it.
At first, my mom was anti-vax, but since she sees what is happening, she is going to get it. I have always been pro-vax, but since it is new, I didn’t feel right getting it. Now, I am starting to decide getting poked is worth it.
Everyone should get vaccinated, but if it was in shortage, [young people] shouldn’t since we are stronger and less prone to get sick or worse.
— David Vega Garcia, 15
I received the Pfizer vaccine as soon as it became available not only for myself but to protect the people around me. My parents are over 50, and I’m frequently around my grandmother. My father is a smoker, my mother has sleep apnea, and my brother has a weak immune system, putting my household at a high risk of serious effects from the virus. I got the vaccine because I don’t want the people I love to suffer.
Most of the information I get about COVID is from news sites such as CNN or local news. If I have specific questions, I’ll try to find sources from trusted doctors through Google. I hear a lot about COVID through friends and family; however, I’m skeptical because misinformation is often spread that way.
My mother is in favor of the vaccine and received her two doses. While my father seemed to be OK with the idea at first, he is refusing to get the vaccine, at least until further testing is done. This causes conflict as my mom and I are worried he might get affected and possibly infect others. Our attempts to encourage him have not been successful. He claims he is healthy despite smoking every day. I want people to realize COVID is not just affecting “unhealthy” people; we are all at risk.
Everyone should get vaccinated, including young people. With the new variants of the virus, we are more at risk than ever. To reduce the amount of deaths and suffering of people young and old, we must get vaccinated. COVID does not choose who it affects. This is a matter of life or death; it should not be political.
— Diba Van Dongen, 16
Editor’s note: The COVID-19 vaccines “went through the same layers of review and testing as other vaccines,” according to the University of Maryland Medical System. The process moved quickly not because of clinical shortcuts but because of high levels of funding and other factors that don’t have a bearing on the vaccines’ safety. The FDA granted Emergency Use Authorization to three vaccines that have gone through clinical trials “conducted according to the rigorous standards” the agency demands. It since fully approved the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 and older, which means it passed the “standard process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products.”
Yes, I did [get vaccinated]! I have asthma. My family and I knew the risks of COVID-19. Not getting the vaccine wasn’t worth my life.
I get my information from my mother, who works in the hospital, and Dr. Darien [Sutton], who talks about the risks and benefits of the vaccine.
I didn’t want to get it because I didn’t trust what was in it. I was worried there wasn’t enough science behind it and that I would turn into a zombie, but I took my head out of the sand, chose to do my own kind of research and learned a lot of benefits.
Young people should get the vaccine. I want the world to be open. I want to go back to not having to wear masks, etc. I have a lot in this world I want to experience, and I can’t do much freely— not unless the people around me, [including] young people are vaccinated as well. It’s about being safe. Don’t take life-threatening chances.
— Joy Durmas, 16
On the 22nd of May this year, I received my first COVID-19 vaccine shot and on the 19th of June, I received my second dose. My dad scheduled an appointment for me. I didn’t go out of my way to get vaccinated, but if my dad did not force me, I probably would’ve gotten vaccinated on my own accord.
My dad preaches about the vaccine. I watch the news with my parents. My parents see the vaccine as a technological advancement in medicine, which I agree with. My dad is a retired chemist and gets enthusiastic about the vaccine. I share his adherence to the vaccine, just not his unbound enthusiasm.
I think young people should get vaccinated. There is so much misinformation about the vaccine; I’m almost amazed that many of them believe it. I heard a teen refused to get vaccinated because they believed it would start a zombie apocalypse. We need to educate others about the importance of the vaccine as well as the risks. For the older generation, I understand their fear. Many know the benefits of the vaccine but fear the risks. They are putting their life in the hands of the vaccine and scientists. If the vaccine goes wrong, another event like the thalidomide tragedy may occur. Although the younger generations are at lesser risk, they should not dismiss the virus. By refuting mask mandates and ignoring the precautions, they are putting others at risk. A mask does not restrict freedom; it preserves safety, health and liberty.
— Kasandra Bui, 15
Editor’s note: Thalidomide is a drug that in the 1950s caused severe birth defects in thousands of children and other devastating consequences. A social media post in December argued that the vaccine — like thalidomide — was released too quickly and couldn’t be trusted. But “there is no fair comparison” between thalidomide and the vaccines, Dr. Ruth Blue of the Thalidomide Society told the fact-checking website Snopes. The drug was not approved in the U.S. until 1998, after extensive research. (Users are given special requirements to prevent pregnancy in themselves or their partners.) The thalidomide tragedy led to the much stronger testing and approval process that is common today.
I did get the vaccine. Though I understood the anxieties other people felt, given that it was developed so quickly, I knew there was no real reason to be scared. The worst-case scenario would simply be the vaccine not working, and that’s certainly a risk worth taking when it comes to protecting yourself from a disease this serious. Unless you have health issues preventing you from getting the shot, skipping out on getting this vaccination is incredibly irresponsible.
When we were first introduced to the vaccine, it was all over mostly every news station, which meant finding information was incredibly easy. Though I did some research separately from these broadcasts to fact-check information, it seems everything said was true.
My parents and I believe getting vaccinated is the most responsible and smart choice for yourself and the people around you. Going out without a vaccine, now that it is available all over and free of charge, is dangerous and makes no sense. The idea of putting oneself at risk, along with family members, co-workers, classmates, friends because someone is too stubborn to concede their (usually) politically driven arguments and baseless fears is something I can’t understand.
Young people should absolutely get vaccinated. As long as someone is recommended to get the vaccine, the responsible choice is to get vaccinated. Most young people are now cleared to be vaccinated, so there is no real reason not to, other than stubbornness on the part of their parents, which is nowhere close to a valid reason. Children tend to go out most days of their lives, whether they are going to school, hanging out with friends, partying, or going to an after-school job or program. Someone who spends so much time in public needs to protect their immune system as well as others’.
— Zora Bedwell, 17
I did get the COVID-19 vaccine because of school, obviously, and for my own and others’ health. It was not that big of a deal because I got my two doses at Pinole Valley High School.
I got information from my dad, who got information from the district that vaccines are available at Pinole Valley. I did not get any other information regarding the vaccine.
My parents and I took it so we can go out, work, be with friends and family, etc. It’s a safety precaution so we can continue going out. We see the vaccine as something to just take and not ask questions or avoid. It is there to help us, so we should take it with gratitude.
Young people should get vaccinated because they are young. They haven’t built up much resistance to diseases. It improves their resistance and keeps them healthy for a long time. But children below a certain age shouldn’t.
— Timmy Hamada, 17
I did get the COVID-19 vaccine because I believe we should all [do] our part and cooperate to end this pandemic.
I get information about the vaccine online or on the news.
I don’t feel differently about the vaccine than my parents. We share the same thoughts when it comes to getting vaccinated. We believe we should [do] our part and do our best to help our community.
I believe young people should get vaccinated, especially since now everyone is returning to school, work, and it’s better to stay as safe as possible.
— Ruby Gorostieta, 15