Publisher’s Note: “VOX provides all teen-created content and perspectives as resources to our audience. At this time, VOX understands that the decision to get vaccinated is a personal and familial decision and VOX does not ask participants to formally disclose their vaccination status to determine participation in our programming.”
The decision wasn’t hard. If I was going to be free of the stress of keeping a six foot distance and constantly pulling my mask over my nose, I knew I was getting a vaccine once it came out for 12-15 year olds. As a 14 year old growing more and more tired of knowing that I was the only chink in the armor of my family, it was firmly set in my mind that that shot was going in.
But then, a peculiar conversation sparked controversy in my well-determined thoughts. A close adult asked me, “So Ella, are you going to get the vaccine once it comes out for your age group?” Deceptive in its simplicity, this question reminded me that while I am surrounded by many people who see the vaccine as obligatory, certainly not everyone thinks that way. I was reminded that there is a choice, even for someone as young as me.
Making the Decision
Realizing this, I asked around for any 12-15 year olds who had gotten the vaccine or were planning to. And all of them had the same underlying reason for why they wanted it — to get back to a normal life. VOX staff member Hunter Buccheit, 15, says that he was looking forward to things like “school and camps” and that “the thought of getting back to normalcy was definitely a big motivator for [him] in getting the vaccine.” Hunter says he was able to do this because “after [his parents] got theirs, [he] felt much more comfortable getting [his].”
VOX staff member Jennie Matos says, “My mom was a huge proponent of me getting it,” followed by the common theme: “I have so many things I want to do… I just really miss up-close human interaction and if getting vaccinated means I can do things again, then I was more than willing to get it.” Both Matos and VOX staff member Aidan Ventimiglia, 15, say that it was “no-brainer for them.” Says Ventimiglia: “[his] whole family had gotten it as soon as it was available, and [he] was always the most worried about COVID in [his] household.”
Another common theme among these responses is that all of the teens’ parents encouraged getting the vaccine or had gotten the vaccine themselves. But what happens when someone’s parent discourages immunity, and as a minor, you’re forced to abide by their rules?
Addressing Parent Hesitancy
Enter Sydney Brass, 16 and junior in Cherokee Bluff High School. Brass says she somewhat understands the motivation behind her parents’ hesitancy, and that while her father would probably let her get it, her mom “doesn’t trust the vaccine,” and believes “wearing a mask is causing a lot of health issues for [Sydney].” As of now, Brass says, “I have not gotten it yet, but I 100% would if my parents let me. I’ll get the vaccine once I’m 18 if I have to wait that long.”
It’s the result of looking outside of what her parents’ told her about the vaccine that alters her perspective. “I had COVID back in December and I would never want anyone else to have to go through what I went through. I see it as a way to help others!” she tells me, “I’m not a big science person, but I trust the doctors that support the vaccine, as they have helped me understand how it functions.”
Age limitations have created problems like these that frankly, I didn’t know existed. However, it proves that even within our bubbles, teens can find ways to reach out and have their own opinions on serious subjects like deciding to get a COVID vaccine.
What’s it like to actually get the vaccine?
Everyone’s experience is different based on where you go and who you’re with. Personally, the transaction for me was breezy. On May 14, I went to Viral Solutions (a drive-thru around a church in Toco Hills), filled out some paperwork, got the shot and waited for 15 minutes to make sure I didn’t faint or have an allergic reaction. It was all very efficient and reassuring.
Buccheit, Matos and Ventimiglia all had a similar experience in terms of ease. While Jennie got her shot at school, Hunter got his at a drive-thru similar to mine and Aidan received his at CVS. They all felt safe and only had the side effect of a sore arm for the rest of the day. Ventimiglia says, “It was very similar to the flu shot.”
So … what now?
As I’m sure most of you know, the CDC has stated that “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
Some people, including myself, were a little shocked at this turn of events. “How could it all end so quickly?” and “Weren’t you just preaching about keeping masks on last week?” are some of the questions probably running through your mind. But despite this, the science behind the decision apparently proves that we are all good to go. So knowing this, a final question that the teens of VOX were asked was “How will your behavior change now?”
Matos says that she will continue to wear her mask because she “just feels much safer with one on, even with relaxed guidelines,” while Buccheit says that while he’ll “definitely be more comfortable going inside places… like smaller stores and restaurants,” he will continue to wear a mask, “mainly as a way of making people more comfortable.”
We Just Want it to be Over
With time, not wearing a mask and not social distancing may become easier and more comfortable to us all. Some of us are probably worried about whether or not COVID will ever end, while others fear debunked online conspiracy theories that microchips are now tracking half the population’s movements. Despite wavering opinions and different standpoints, we all want it to just be over. As Hunter Buccheit explains, “It’s perfectly OK to be cautious, but make sure to do what will best protect you and those around you!”
It may take weeks, months and possibly another year for everyone to want that vaccine. But even then, you can’t convince every anti-vaxxer to trust the doctors. The best you can do is ask questions, keep others safe and encourage peers and family to do the same. Let’s all work towards peace together.
Above Artwork by Zeke Dameron, 14.