RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 account for a growing share of new COVID-19 cases and patients in hospitals — even as surveys show that group with a higher rate of hesitancy for the vaccine.
“Young people need to understand that even if they get COVID, they can be symptomatic for quite some time — it can change their life, at least in the near term, even if it doesn’t put them in intensive care units,” said Dr. Shannon Carson of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Generation Z makes up nearly 10 percent of the population but accounts for just 6 percent of people getting their first dose.
And their raw vaccination numbers also dropped lately: A total of nearly 19,000 people in the 18-to-24 age group received at least one dose last week — down significantly from the roughly 35,000 the week before. That was part of a massive week-over-week overall drop statewide in vaccinations, with fewer than 400,000 administered last week after more than 500,000 the week before.
Carson speculated that one reason is that “they felt less vulnerable to the virus in the first place.
“So why would they want to risk theoretical issues associated with the vaccine?” he added.
Because that demographic is so internet savvy, the best way to reach them might be by making better, more creative use of social media.
For example, Philadelphia doctor Austin Chiang has been creating public health-based videos on TikTok for two years, gathering nearly half a million followers.
“We’re competing with misinformation on social media … whatever we can do to overwhelm that message with facts, science and experiences, is probably the way to go,” he said.
It comes as the shares of cases and patients in hospitals among younger people rise.
State data show people younger than 24 accounted for 37 percent of the more than 12,500 cases reported last week — up from 35 percent the week before that, and 33 percent during the last week of March.
“We’ve got a more infectious (variant) in the community now, so we’re letting our guard down, not yet vaccinated, and these more infectious viruses out there, younger people are going to be infected at higher rates,” Carson said. “They’re going to spread that to their vulnerable, elderly family and neighbors. And those are the patients who are just as vulnerable to severe illness and death as they were in January.”
And people under 30 made up 9 percent of COVID-related hospital admissions during the most recent seven days of data from the state Department of Health and Human Services. They accounted for 7 percent of admissions the week before and 6.5 percent two weeks before that.
The average number of daily hospital admissions for those under 30 is at its highest level since the post-holiday surge.
“Because they’re younger, they’re not at as high risk for severe disease, or critical COVID,” Carson said. “But they’re still sick in the hospital, and they’ll be symptomatic for a long time.”