‘The Least I Could Do’: Why These Detroit Teens Want Their Peers To Get Vaccinated

A group of Detroit high school students who say they want to do their part to encourage more students to get the COVID-19 shot has launched a campaign to get young people vaccinated.

For some, it’s a personal mission.

“Last year my grandmother had to go to the hospital for at least a month. It was an uphill battle for her.” said Demitri Marino, a senior at Renaissance High School whose grandmother had COVID-19.

“She was lucky enough to get through and get home safely. I just felt like it was my part to make sure I could at least do something to protect my family,” said Marino.

Marino and two other teenagers in the Detroit Public Schools ward – Harrison Haywood, senior at Cass Technical High School and Rachel Kabala, junior at Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine – launched Teens for Vaccines Tuesday. At the opening event, Dr. Dennis Cunningham, a pediatric infection specialist at Henry Ford Health System, attended to answering questions and spreading rumors about vaccines.

Events for young people for vaccines:

Teens for Vaccines, a student-led campaign promoting the COVID-19 vaccine, has planned a series of events to help students get vaccinated.

The event will start when more young people in the US are eligible for vaccines. Teenagers aged 16 and over are eligible for one of three vaccines that are already available in the US. By the end of the week, children who are younger will likely be able to get the vaccine according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents ages 12-15.

Harrison Haywood, a senior at Cass Technical High School, is one of three Detroit students who launched a campaign to get students vaccinated against COVID-19.

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public Schools Community District

The students in Detroit are planning more events so that young people can answer questions about the vaccine. The district also plans to work with its health partners to offer vaccination clinics, said assistant superintendent Alycia Meriweather.

Haywood said it was important for him to get the vaccine “so that I can champion the vaccine as an experience, not just telling people to get it.” He said he would pursue a career in the medical field as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

“It is very important for the public to have confidence in our science and our healthcare professionals,” said Haywood. “I always say this to my friends and family.”

Rachel Kabala, a junior girl at Benjamin Carton High School of Health and Medicine, was vaccinated because she wanted to make her contribution to the community.

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public Schools Community District

The event included a video produced by students and staff at Burns Elementary Middle School that also encouraged people to get the vaccine. They used song and dance, adapted the late DMX’s Ruff Ryder’s Anthem, and sang, “Stop. Drop. Hurry up and get your COVID shot. Oh, no, that’s how Burns Panthers roll.”

Kabala told the audience that 2020 was a year of turmoil for many. While it helped her bond more with her family, she said others didn’t have this time. This is especially true of the families of the scientists who “stayed in laboratories day and night” to work on vaccine development.

“They worked to make sure we had the COVID vaccine,” Kabala said. “The least I can do as a citizen is to get vaccinated.”

“Thank you for not only finding your voice, but also using your voice,” said Angelique Peterson-Mayberry, president of the Detroit School Board, to the students. “I hope you understand how important it is to use your voice.”

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a non-profit news organization dedicated to public education. Sign up for your newsletter here.

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