COVID Vaccination Rates Among Young People Lag Behind in Some Mass. Communities

In some Massachusetts communities, like Lawrence, there is still a lot of work to be done in getting people between the ages of 12 and 19 vaccinated against COVID-19

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While it might feel like the big push is over, in some Massachusetts communities, there is still a lot of work to do when it comes to vaccinating teenagers against COVID-19. One coalition is putting out new data on vaccine inequities in the state in hopes of getting them addressed.

In Lawrence, only 66% of young people ages 12 to 19 were vaccinated as of Nov. 18. Despite doing pop-up clinics at schools and at shopping plazas, nurse manager Jaime Seerino said she knows there is progress to be made.

"I think a lot of people are just not comfortable yet. A lot of education is needed. We have kids that work or can't get to a vaccination site, so we've started doing house visits," Severino said.

Lawrence is not alone. Only about half of teenagers in New Bedford, Springfield and Fall River are vaccinated, according to data released by the Vaccine Equity Now Coalition. The coalition published the data to show that communities that are most vulnerable tend to have lower vaccination rates. Places like Swampscott and Sudbury have more than 95% of teenagers vaccinated.

"This is really an opportunity. It is a motivating factor," said Dr. Atiya Martin, who is on the steering committee for the Vaccine Equity Now Coalition.

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Martin said she hopes highlighting the disparities is motivating, not discouraging, and ultimately drives strategy.

"In so many places, it becomes an afterthought, like, 'Oh, yeah, we should do mobile vaccinations, oh, yeah, we should be going to where people are,' when all of that should happen on the front end," Martin said.

One notable outlier is Chelsea. The city has 99% of its teenagers vaccinated. The coalition said that is, in large part, due to the efforts of community-led groups like La Colaborativa.

"For cities that want to know what the magic is, we just went to the neighborhoods. We knocked on doors and we never stopped. I tell people do it for your older family member, for your grandmother. If you're not going to do it for me, do it for someone you love," said Gladys Vega, executive director for La Colaborativa.

Lawrence is seeing some progress with clinics at schools and at shopping plazas. There are more planned for this weekend, hoping to catch teenagers who are out doing Black Friday shopping.

"Slowly but surely, we'll get there. Our community is slowly coming together, and that's a good thing," Severino said.

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