April 22, 2021 -- Hesitancy around COVID-19 vaccination appears to be increasing among Generation Z — those born between 1997 and 2012 — in recent months.

Public health officials are concerned about vaccine hesitancy in this age group as COVID-19 cases have spiked among young adults.

In a NBCLX/Morning Consult poll conducted in March, 26% of Gen Z respondents said they won’t get vaccinated, and 19% said they aren’t sure whether they will get inoculated. In a similar NBCLX/Morning Consult poll conducted in March 2020, 5% of Gen Z respondents said they wouldn’t get vaccinated.

In a recent STAT-Harris Poll, about 21% of Gen Z respondents said they won’t get vaccinated, and 34% said they would “wait awhile and see” before getting a vaccine.

Experts are now looking for new strategies to communicate about vaccines with this age group. During most of the pandemic, public health messaging indicated that older adults faced more vulnerability to the virus, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“There was less concern about other generations until very recently, which has started to create problems,” Jamieson said. “If you haven’t been paying attention to the media recently, how vulnerable would you think you were if you were in the younger generations? The answer is not very.”

In recent weeks, public health messaging has begun to shift to focus on long-term COVID-19 effects among all ages, particularly on the social media platforms that Gen Z prefers, such as Tik Tok.

“Effective messaging for Gen Zers on Tik Tok … looks a lot like effective health messaging elsewhere in so-called legacy media formats, such as newspaper or television,” Allyson Levin, a communications professor at Villanova University, told the newspaper.

“Messages should be scientifically accurate and evidence-based,” she said, adding that some social media posts have included misinformation about vaccines, which “could have the potential to undermine other public health and communication efforts.”

On Tik Tok, more users are posting videos about vaccine safety and efficacy, as well as explaining why the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused and what that could mean. As pharmaceutical companies that manufacture vaccines release more data about vaccine trials in teens and adolescents, that could clear up hesitancy for Gen Z people as well.

“Someone might be looking at the situation and think, ‘I’m much closer to 18 than I am to 65, I might want to wait until I’ve seen the studies for 12 to 18-year-olds,’ ” Jamieson said. “It doesn’t necessarily suggest that you have a population avoiding vaccines for bad reasons.”

Show Sources

The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Vaccine hesitancy is increasing among Gen Z. Targeted public health messaging can help, experts say.”
NBCLX/Morning Consult poll: “Gen Z Interest in COVID-19 Vaccine Plummets as Country Reopens, New Poll Finds.”
STAT-Harris Poll: “March 19-21, 2021.”

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