Massachusetts is a national leader in getting people vaccinated against the coronavirus, but younger people here are still lagging older people in getting their shots.
The animated graphic below, based on vaccination data broken down by age from the Department of Public Health, shows that 90 percent or more of Massachusetts residents over 65 have gotten at least one shot.
It also shows that the percentage of people vaccinated declines the younger people get, reaching 59 percent among 20- to 29-year-olds, 52 percent among 16- to 19-year-olds, and 29 percent among 12- to 15-year-olds.
Younger people have had less time to get their shots, since they were prioritized later in the vaccination campaign than older people, who are more vulnerable to the potentially deadly virus. Twelve- to 15-year-olds pop up on the chart quite late because they were not authorized to get the vaccine until the middle of last month.
But experts and officials also are concerned that younger people may be less inclined to get the shots than older people.
Governor Charlie Baker said at a news briefing Wednesday, “Some folks haven’t gotten vaccinated because they’re young, and they don’t view COVID as a problem among people who are young, and their parents and their grandparents at this point have gotten vaccinated so they’re a little less worried about the issues associated with the older folks in their family.”
Some public health experts are concerned that younger people also may be more susceptible to social media misinformation about the vaccine, the Globe reported last weekend.
Experts say there are numerous reasons younger people should still get shots, including the possibility of getting long-term respiratory or other impacts, the possibility of lost work days and high medical bills, the possibility of passing it on to others who are vulnerable, including younger children, and the general benefit to society.
“My message to young people ... is simple: “Get vaccinated.” Whether you’re a graduate, still in high school, in college, just out, or more than a little bit out, it’s the most important thing you can do right now,” Andy Slavitt, one of President Biden’s top coronavirus advisers, said last month. “Getting vaccinated is something you can do to protect yourself and your family. It will help you and all of us return to a closer-to-normal life.”
Brooke Nichols, an assistant professor of global health at the Boston University School of Public Health, said Wednesday, “We need to make vaccination both personal and cultural — find people in leadership roles in the communities where vaccination lags behind and appeal to people on a personal level ... from the community level.”
“There are also, of course, structural issues to attend to,” she said in an e-mail. “Vaccination rates are lower amongst the younger working-age population — so we need to make sure there is access to vaccines at times that suit people who are working (and ensure that people are aware of these opportunities to be vaccinated).”
Finally, she said in an e-mail, for those under 18 “the biggest barriers may in fact be their parents (as well as the hours of the school day)” so making it easier for parents and schoolchildren may also increase rates.
“It’s critical to maximize vaccination in younger age groups and make it the new social norm,” said Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a former US assistant health secretary.
“The initial rate of rise in those aged 12-15 is most impressive,” Koh, who is also a former Massachusetts public health commissioner, noted Wednesday in an e-mail, adding that “health professionals and educators can support families, parents and children to accelerate the momentum.”
In addition to persuading young people, officials know they need to reach the many people still in wait-and-see mode, residents lacking access or transportation to injection sites, and Black, Latino, and rural white people suspicious of inoculation, the Globe reported.
Amanda Kaufman and Robert Weisman of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.