Sometimes you just need the right messenger. And sometimes that messenger is a kid in Grand Traverse County who just wants an uninterrupted baseball season.
“(He) in particular wanted to be the first, and then he recruited the whole rest of his baseball team to get vaccinated, so that they can continue to play together," said Wendy Hirschenberger, the Grand Traverse County health officer. "And so that's how vaccinations work as a whole."
It's only been about two weeks since the FDA expanded the emergency use authorization for Pfizer's COVID-19 to 12-15 year olds, and already 16% of Michigan kids in the age group have received at least their first dose.
"A lot of the kids have really stepped up," Hirschenberger said.
But the picture looks starkly different depending on the county, with some parts of the Upper Peninsula still below 1% of those adolescents vaccinated, while others like Washtenaw County (38%) and Grand Traverse County (28%) are far above average.
“We've all made concerted efforts to really try and get the school age kids vaccinated before the end of the school year as much as we could, to reduce the quarantines in the schools,” Hirschenberger said Tuesday during a Munson Health press conference.
“I think throughout the entire pandemic, we really had kids attending school much more than other parts of the state. And I think that's an impetus for this that we've heard from some of the 12 to 15 year olds, too, is that they wanted to be near their friends. So they're getting vaccinated so they don't have to be quarantined.”
“There's (sic) so many families that are ready to take a vacation right when school is out,” said Heidi Britton, Chief Executive Officer of Northwest Michigan Health Services, a medical clinic in Benzie County. Twenty percent of the 12-to-15 year olds there have received at least their initial dose.
“And so the timing was actually perfect, as far as getting it in that first two weeks...I think the kids have been waiting. I think that they're excited to not have to test (for COVID) anymore. I mean, personally, my kid was like, ‘This is good. I don't have to wear a mask anymore.’ They've been so resilient this entire year," Britton said.
"I was kind of excited, because then I couldn't get COVID again," said Sebastian Kubitz, a 14-year-old student in Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County, at a vaccine clinic earlier this month. He contracted the virus in October after his hairdresser reached out to his parents to say she'd tested positive, he said, though he was asymptomatic.
"Most of my friends are going to get it. We might not have to have as many precautions, like masks, later on," Kubitz said.