A few weeks ago, I was talking with one of my friends and mentioned my upcoming appointment to get the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As a healthy 23-year-old, I patiently waited for my age group to be eligible for the vaccine, which wasn’t made available to all Michiganders 16 years and older until April 5.
But to my surprise, she was hesitant about whether or not she’ll get the vaccine herself.
It wasn’t because I hopelessly assumed everyone would get the vaccine. But I had watched my friend, and most others, take this pandemic seriously for over a year now.
My friends stayed home. They took their classes online. We reminisced about parties and joked about what it will be like when bars open up again. And even when bars started to reopen, my friends weren’t going.
Most teens and young adults in Generation Z have been taking the pandemic seriously, according to a Harris Poll survey done in September.
About 83% of Gen Z respondents said they were following recommended safety precautions, 79% said they were strictly following mask-wearing guidelines and 80% said they wanted more people their age to follow those same recommendations.
So honestly, I was shocked that after accepting all the life changes that came our way throughout the pandemic, my friend and other people our age were hesitant to take that last final step.
Her concerns are valid and rooted in anxiety of the unknown, something we have all been struggling with since the pandemic hit Michigan last March.
And she isn’t alone in this. In fact, a recent NBCLX/Morning Consult poll found that 26% of Gen Z adults do not plan on getting the vaccine.
Some blame the messaging directed toward Gen Z hasn’t been successful. Others note there’s disinformation, like about its effects on fertility, with many of us reaching an age where we are thinking about starting a family. And since the early days of the pandemic, we’ve heard that healthy young people will be able to fare COVID-19 much easier, although there are many who haven’t.
In Michigan, more young people are getting sick from COVID-19. Residents ages 10 to 19 now have the highest case rates in the state.
Joe Rogan, who hosts one of the most popular podcasts in the world, said on his show last week that young healthy people shouldn’t get the vaccine. He later backtracked, but the damage was done.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had to respond to this on NBC’s “Today Show,” saying that the podcaster’s comments are “incorrect” and young people should “absolutely” get vaccinated.
“So if you want to only worry about yourself and not society, then that’s OK,” Fauci said. “But if you’re saying to yourself, ‘Even if I get infected, I could do damage to somebody else, even if I have no symptoms at all,’ and that’s the reason why you’ve got to be careful and get vaccinated.”
At the heart of the conversations around generational divides between Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z is what we prioritize.
For me, it was never a question of whether or not I would get the vaccine, just when and where.
I want my life to be normal again. I want to stop worrying about my dad when he goes to the grocery store. I want to go on roadtrips and not have to be wary of overcrowded tourist traps. I want to smile at strangers. I want to work in an office again without being worried.
For young people, this is when you feel like you are on the precipice of the next great thing, whether it’s graduation, a new job or the freedom of adulthood. For me, I realized that in order to actually take advantage of this time in my life after a year of feeling like that’s all been put on hold, getting vaccinated was the first big step to getting there.