A Candid Conversation: Many 18 To 29-Year-Olds Hesitant To Get The COVID-19 Vaccine

CHICAGO (CBS) — Many 18 to 29-year-olds are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Terrance is a 20-something from Chicago and is reluctant to get the shot. Eva is a high school senior who eagerly got hers, but her friends are dubious. And Dr. Jennifer Seo is the Chief Medical Officer for Chicago’s Department of Public Health. The three got together with CBS 2’s Chris Tye for a candid conversation about vaccination.

Chris Tye: Terrance, can you talk to us about what got you to the place to say that vaccine at this place, at this time is not for me?

Terrance: Throughout our history as African Americans, we have had some situations where vaccination wasn’t the most successful. And with it only being a year out, and something that doesn’t have a lot of trials of people, it doesn’t really show an assuring history for me to be able to get the vaccination.

Tye: Dr. Seo, when you hear that, what is the best way to have a dialogue around those concerns?

Dr. Seo: First and foremost, recognizing the history in terms of engagement with the African American community and our health care system, so acknowledging the past and the history and the distance we have to go to regain that trust. In terms of the development of the vaccine, no corners were cut. What was cut was red tape.

Tye: Terrance when you hear that, is this one of those topics where you are immovable or more discussion might nudge you in a different direction?

Terrance: I still have a sense of reluctancy with the situation. And also the idea that you can possibly still get it with the vaccination and also the experiences with myself having family members who have got the vaccination who have had huge symptoms after it, it’s just something that is disassuring to myself.

Dr. Seo: Generally the side effects are mild. And this is a sign that the vaccine is working. It would be much worse if the person got COVID-19.  

Tye: Eva is a senior at Lane Tech. Can you talk about what in the pro and con column, what stood out most pointedly for you?

Eva: To me, the pros were quite overwhelming compared to the cons. The apprehensions I heard from peers and apprehensions that I had myself included side effects. That was worrying me, but the potential fatal symptoms of COVID-19 were outweighed by the chance of temporary side effects of the vaccine.

Dr. Seo: The more residents of Chicago that get vaccinated, this will allow us to go back to the activities we love doing before this pandemic hit: to see your friends, to have prom without worrying of getting COVID-19 or causing an outbreak. These are all important things.

Terrance: I’ve heard situations where over 7,000 people who were vaccinate have passed away already, that’s not an assuring sign for myself.

Dr. Seo: We are continuing to collect data. I think the wonderful thing that they found, for example with the Pfizer vaccine, six months after getting the vaccine the amount of protection people were getting and how effective it was, it was the same as like a week after.  

Tye: Might this have nudged you into the ‘I’ll give it some thought’ camp?

Terrance: It does move the needle just a slight bit of interest in looking to see what I can do more to prevent actually the spread, but as far as moving toward the vaccination, I’m still not interested.

Dr. Seo: It’s important that you’re having the dialogue, that you’re looking into information. I would love to see that you get vaccinated soon.

One thing the doctor said she loved to hear from Terrance was that while he’s not immediately planning on getting vaccinated, he has remained locked in on the hand-washing, masking and social distancing — crucial habits to maintain if you pass on the vaccination.

Terrance said 7,000 people who were vaccinated have died, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there have been 9,245 breakthrough infections — when vaccinated people get sick from the same illness a vaccine is meant to prevent — and only 132 have died. Twenty of those were asymptomatic or not related to COVID-19.