HUDSONVILLE, Mich. — Some teenagers in West Michigan are encouraging their peers to get vaccinated as Michigan’s latest COVID-19 spike continues to impact younger people.
“It was a pretty easy decision,” said Alexis McKinney, a senior at Grandville High School. “I just wanted to be as protected against COVID.”
McKinney was vaccinated on Tuesday at a clinic hosted by SpartanNash, which focused on 16- and 17-year-olds. According to organizers, roughly 500 people signed up to receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the only one approved for people under 18.
“With having three vaccines been approved, but only one of them for those under 18, we knew that we needed to make it easy for them to be able to find a vaccine appointment,” said Amy Ellis, a pharmacy service manager with SpartanNash. “Seeing such high rates and [with] having activities, spring sports starting, we want to keep kids in school. What can we do to help protect them and get them the vaccines that they need?”
Michigan is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases among kids. In Ottawa County, the 10- to 19-year-olds make up 14.6% of cases, which is the area’s second-highest percentage. The age group comprises 14.9% of the county’s population.
There have been no reported deaths in kids in Ottawa County, but health officials in Michigan are more concerned about MIS-C developing, which is a rare inflammatory disease children can get after contracting the virus. MIS-C attacks healthy organs according to doctors.
Daily pediatric COVID-19 admissions have increased by 237% since Feb. 19, according to the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. Currently, 45 children have been hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19.
“It’s been a bit difficult since I am involved in extracurriculars,” said Abby Kachel, a junior at Jenison High School, when describing the past year. “I kind of miss having that closeness with everybody along with seeing family all the time.”
State data shows 14.1% of 16- to- 19-year-olds have received their first dose, and three percent are fully vaccinated.
Parents tasked with making the decision on whether to allow their child to become vaccinated say they trust the science.
“You hear a lot of anecdotal information, and you’re not really sure if some of the things you hear are correct, so I did a little bit of research online,” said Beth Kachel, Abby’s mom. “There didn’t seem to be any bad effects for teenagers, and I discussed it briefly with her. I think we both believe in science… I mean they’ve been making vaccines for years, so I felt like we could trust [it].”
Ellis says anyone with vaccine hesitancy should look to the CDC or talk to their local healthcare provider.
“I just feel like it can do a lot of good,” said Kachel, who is looking forward to what’s ahead.
“Teenagers, they like to get around, they like to go out, and they want to stay protected against COVID,” added McKinney.