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Young people are key community influencers for the COVID-19 vaccine

Nana and Tomisin, sixth form students and the Health and Wellbeing Ambassadors of Fitzrovia Youth in Action (FYA), are our guest bloggers for this month. They are passionate about health and wellbeing and aspire to study medicine. They believe that as young people, they can be a force in influencing their peers, parents, family members and potentially the wider community, and help them make an informed decision on the COVID-19 vaccine. Read more in their blog. 

 

Who are we, you ask?

This blog is presented to you by Nana (to the left) and Tomisin (to the right), the Health and Wellbeing Ambassadors of Fitzrovia Youth in Action (FYA). This is an organisation all for the greater good of the community, specifically Camden. FYA is steered by young people like us; Youth Ambassadors. FYA allows young people to set the agenda, design and lead new projects and initiative benefitting the community or our peers or take part in youth social action in lots of different ways. Visit our website for more information. 

 

It is with so much pleasure that we do this. You see, upon writing this, I, (Nana), was slightly apprehensive because it is such a huge platform for small me to give my two pence representing the whole youth community but if we are not to take over for our society, who will? Just a little to get to know me and Tomisin - we are sixth form students, year 12 and year 13, who feel so passionately about health and wellbeing. We feel as though this could be the start of many great opportunities for our future as 2 sixth form students living in the real world, aspiring to study medicine but also for youth in general. If you couldn’t tell before, this is ALL ABOUT CORONA: MYTHS AND BUSTING THEM, but also how we as young people can be a force in this conversation, influencing our peers, our parents and potentially the wider community. We want to be a place of the reason for all those that may be lost and led astray as that is very easy in a world of social media and tabloids. Read on to get all the info…

Watch the film: Young people as community influencers  - Vaccine Information

 

You're bored, what's the first thing you do? Pick up your phone - you go on TikTok, go on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat? Have I named your everyday apps? Yes, I knew I had and let me tell you why. As a generation, our first instinct is to use social media and that is what is causing our downfall in terms of the covid-19 vaccine. Later in this blog, you will find great sources for you to address all your misinterpretations and to find out the true information about the vaccine. On social media, so many people confuse the virus and the vaccine for many different myths or misinformation.

 

I and Tomisin have gone through many different means of finding out how misinformed the young generation is but also the power we can hold - Peer to peer communication plays a massive role in the spread of information too. 58% of young people would rather speak to their friend or peer to find out information[1] and are often more likely to believe fellow young people. This shows that there is almost a type of bubble with us young people where information is spread and if the bubble has the wrong information then so does everyone in the bubble. We should never underestimate the power that young people carry in spreading information. If armed with the correct knowledge, the statistics we have provided already show how influential we can be not only with our peers but with our families too.

 

There are also other bubbles we are part of - we influence adults as well. For instance, if you are the spokesperson for a family whose first language is not English, you are the key translation or source of correct information. It might be that you are a young carer, and you hold responsibilities related to your family members health decisions. Whatever information they get from other young people, they will tell to their friends, who then tell their families, who then tell their friends - and just like that a domino effect is caused, a chain reaction is formed! If we can ensure that young people (who are sources to many) are armed with the correct information then we can ensure that information is spread is based on truth and facts

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The Vaccine Information film was based on a true-life story - Our very own FYA members were misinformed that they prevented their parents from receiving the vaccine not once, but twice, despite so many experts, religious leaders and healthcare professionals trying to help us understand the benefits. As is the case of many young people, all we want is to ensure the safety of our loved ones and that is what she thought she was doing; protecting her mum.

 

We have to look and work out - is this information correct? Does it have a source - is the source reliable? The problem is how do we tell if one ‘scientist’ is speaking the truth when another says the opposite. How are we meant to know the graph or photo from an article that an auntie has just sent to everyone is real or not? After doing extensive research on reliable sources, like the ones we list below, the young woman in the film who was once lost on the ideas of the vaccine was able to make a more informed decision and encourage her parents to have the vaccine. I personally have a few health care professionals in my family and both my parents have had the vaccine. For me, getting the vaccine is doing the greater good for our family and for those around us. If you are unsure - you can come back and read our blog.

 

Myth Busting

MISINFORMATION IS DEADLY! If not deadly, dangerous. The rate at which myths spread, especially amongst young people is jaw-dropping. Thanks to social media there are various platforms where these myths can be shared multiple times so much so that they are perceived as facts despite there being no evidence to back the claims. In the case of COVID-19 Vaccines, there is no exception. We answer some of the most common concerns below:

  • How was the vaccine developed so quickly? It is true that the vaccine was developed at a fast pace - However, when most of the world was in lockdown and globally thousands of scientists and health professionals were working together, it’s not as surprising as you might initially think. The appropriate checks were carried and the vaccine is completely safe. At the time of writing this blog (March 2021), 28,991,188 people have had their first dose of the vaccine in the UK.
  • Does the Vaccine impact fertility? Doctors and medical advisers have stated that there is zero evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines interfere with fertility. It is difficult to know if there might be any long-term impacts of the vaccine BUT we do already know some of the long-term impacts of having the virus itself, which the vaccine will prevent for some people.
  • If I've had Covid, do I need the vaccine? Although a person previously infected may have increased immunity, there is no data to show how long this immunity lasts this is why it is advised to still take the vaccine to make sure you’re protected.
  • Should I trust the intentions behind the vaccine? Many myths and conspiracies are going around, rooted in mistrust. The vaccine was developed to help, not harm people. The virus is disproportionately affecting Black and Asian communities and people of colour so it’s essential that these communities get vaccinated.

 

Where to find information 

In conclusion… I am attempting to not sign this blog out like an English essay which is something I have been fed for so long that it is difficult to stray from, just as it is easy to believe the tabloids and Twitter over the health professionals, as that is what you see far more. It is our role as young, influential members of society to say NO to the latest headline that can seem more ‘legit’ than the NHS website. So tell a friend to tell a friend, go to the correct places for information, where you can be settled and not feel as though the vaccine is a way for Jeff Bezos to put a chip in you. “Where can we find useful information?” you ask, well as promised, a series of links will be found below so that as a society we will not be left feeling like lost puppies and can help our families and loved ones.

 

If you are a young person struggling with all the changes at the moment - we hear you! Check out Kooth, Young Minds, The Mix or Childline - please speak to someone if you can. You are not alone. You can also find out more about projects and youth activities online or face to face across Camden on Camden Rise.

 

[1] 2019 survey conducted by FYA out of 1297 young people who had taken part in peer education workshops - 69% prefer learning from someone their own age, young people are twice as likely to approach a peer before seeking advice from a parent, teacher, youth worker, helpline or other advisory services. This has been similar for a number of years.