Kansas City metro teens share mixed opinions on COVID-19 vaccines

Youth Ambassadors to hold vaccine clinic
Youth Ambassadors summer program
Youth Ambassadors
Posted at 5:36 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 19:17:18-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — COVID-19 vaccination efforts are now focused on younger people, who are less willing to get it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And opinions among some Kansas City metro teens were mixed.

Manhattan "Manny" Johnston, an incoming high school junior, said she feels like she's done a lot of research.

"I love that we're getting people vaccinated, but I feel like there needs to be a little more testing," Johnston told 41 Action News during a visit Youth Ambassadors.

Johnston said she and her friends talk about whether the vaccine works and "if they came out with it too soon."

Zachariaus Everette, an incoming high school senior, said he hasn't done any extensive research but feels strongly about his stance.

"Personally, I don't plan on getting it because I have a pretty strong immune system," Everett said. "And personally, I don't want to put anything foreign in there if I don't have to. Now, if it were to hit me, and I think that it would be the best for me, then I'd do it."

Aniyah Rowe, an incoming high school freshman, said she already has both her doses of the vaccine.

"I wanted to make sure that I was being safe, so before I took it, I just wanted to make sure everything was going to be OK," Rowe said. "There was a few affects but I was good."

Rowe said she and her friends talk about how the pandemic has taken so many lives and that they're hoping for a cure. Overall, Rowe said she tries to be positive about it.

Youth Ambassadors has these conversations one-on-one in the classroom during summer programs as part of the Our Healthy KC Eastside initiative, which promotes health on the city's east side. Naturally, COVID-19 and the vaccine come up quite a bit.

"The social circle is really powerful," Executive Director Monique Johnson said. "So we're hoping to operate in that space as we seek to disseminate information about what's available."

Johnston said they surveyed 160 teens at the beginning of the summer. Ten percent were already vaccinated, 45% said they were interested in the vaccine but hadn't gotten it yet, and the remaining 45% said they weren't interested in getting the vaccine at all.

The students live in zip codes with low vaccination rates and where the majority of families are Black.

Manny Johnston said she's hesitant.

"I've heard afterwards is really painful and I've heard people do get really sick from it, but it also affects a bunch of people in a bunch of different ways," she said.

Everett said it's split down the middle in the circles he runs in. Half are open to getting the vaccine, and the other half aren't – but don't judge the people who do.

"For me, I think the difference is I'm just more conscience of just what I'm putting in my body and understanding now I have a choice of what goes in," Everett said.

Rowe said she got vaccinated so she could return to playing sports. Afterward, she said it made her feel better mentally and physically.

"You don't really have to get it if you don't want to," Rowe said, "but I would recommend it because I want people to be safe and I want everybody to feel safe."

Monique Johnston said that choosing to be vaccinated against the virus is a person choice with several "cultural nuances at play."

"Ultimately, we want to spread accurate information about vaccines, provide opportunities for vaccinations to occur and eliminate some of those barriers that exist," she said.

Youth Ambassadors plans to hold a vaccine clinic at the end of July at the teen center, 5809 Michigan Ave., Kansas City, MO 64130.

"We're also hoping to eliminate access barriers to actually getting the vaccine, that's also a major issue," Monique Johnston said. "Do I have transportation? Can I take time off work? How can I get the vaccine? How can I get my second dose?"

In Missouri, 15% of children age 12-14 and 27% of people age 15-24 are fully vaccinated.