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Vaccine hesitancy: Young adults debate whether to get inoculated

by Eplunus Colvin | April 6, 2021 at 4:09 a.m.
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff students expressed their concerns, with many saying they were opting not to take the free covid-19 vaccine offered on campus. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Eplunus Colvin)

Invulnerable to harm regardless of their behavior. That seems to be a core belief of some young people when it comes to getting the covid-19 vaccine.

In Arkansas, anyone over the age of 16 is now eligible to receive a covid-19 vaccine, but many young adults in Pine Bluff do not want the covid-19 vaccine -- whether it was something these teens read on social media or the result of a seed sown in their psyche that has put fear and doubt in their mind.

During spring break, Doctor's Orders Pharmacy held a vaccination clinic on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, but not many people showed up.

"There is still some vaccine hesitancy," said Lelan Stice, owner of Doctor's Orders Pharmacy. "We were expecting 120, and we only had 65 show up."

The following week Jefferson Regional Medical Clinic held a vaccination clinic at UAPB with better success than Doctor's Orders with 105 participants, but the turnout was still fewer than expected.

With the covid-19 virus known to spread from person to person of all ages, some young adults feel they are fine without the covid-19 vaccine. One in that group is 18-year-old UAPB freshman Tayary Penn.

"I'm just better without it. I am young, and my immune system is good" she said. "I wear my mask when I have to."

Penn, who has already had covid-19, said her family has had it also, and everyone survived.

She also said she was leery about the side effects of the vaccine after hearing what others were experiencing.

"I feel like if you are older or at high risk, then get the shot," Penn said. "I didn't get sick when I had covid-19, so why would I want to get sick with the vaccine."

According to Stice, side effects are common as with any vaccine.

"We see the fewest side effects with Pfizer than any other vaccine," Stice said. "A lot of people have called us, telling us they had to call in sick to work with flu-like symptoms after getting the Johnson & Johnson."

Marshai Bradley, another 18-year-old UAPB freshman, said she did not trust the vaccine.

"I'm a big person on conspiracy theories," said Bradley, who compared the covid-19 vaccine to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, a federal reserach project that studied syphilis in Black men between the 1930s and 1970s without their informed consent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "I just feel like this could be like reducing the population, and I just don't trust it."

Bradley said she believed it was too soon to give vaccines, especially to those around her age group and younger because she didn't feel enough studies had been done.

She was also turned off by the frequent bribes during covid-19 vaccination promotions offering free products in exchange for a vaccine.

"I was listening to the radio, and they said if you go get the vaccine, you'll get free doughnuts," she said. "Regardless of what covid is doing to us, you shouldn't have to bribe people to go get it. They are either going to get it or not. That doesn't sit right with me."

Many teens surveyed on campus said they were not going to get the vaccine and would just continue to wear their masks when needed.

Clemie Alcorn, a 19-year-old freshman, said he believes the virus is real but is choosing not to get vaccinated because he doesn't have to.

"Around my friends, I don't wear my mask because I am around them all the time," said Alcorn, who added that he wears his mask around people he isn't around on a regular basis. "I just don't feel the need to get vaccinated."

But not all young adults feel that way.

Some young adults like 18-year-old Kaleb Washington did opt to get a covid-19 vaccine.

Washington said he decided to get vaccinated because he had a responsibility to not only protect himself but also to protect others.

"I got nieces and nephews at the crib, and I didn't want to bring anything back to them," Washington said adding that he does attend parties without a mask on and has never been sick.

According to the CDC, while fewer children have been sick with covid-19 compared to adults, children can be infected with the virus that causes covid-19, can get sick from covid-19 and can spread the virus that causes covid-19 to others even if they have no symptoms.

According to the CDC, covid-19 cases in children, adolescents and young adults increased during the summer of 2020. Throughout the year, incidence among young adults aged 18–24 years were more distinct and more prominent.

As of April 4, Jefferson County has fully vaccinated a total of 8,529, according to the CDC. Out of those fully vaccinated, 7,871 were older than 18, and 4,538 were older than 65.

JRMC will be at the UAPB HPER Complex today from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. to administer covid-19 vaccines to anyone 16-years of age or older.

No appointment is needed. For more information visit jrmc.org/covid19.

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