CISH COVID-19 Virtual Summit Provides Youth with Information to Be Health Ambassadors
More than 150 youth, ages 11-19, from across Washington state joined the International Community Health Services (ICHS) team and community health partners for the “COVID-19 Virtual Youth Summit to Build a healthy future ”, a multimedia event designed to educate and empower young people and dispel myths about the coronavirus and vaccines.
The ICHS Virtual Event was presented by Comcast and co-sponsored by the Association of Asia-Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) and the City of Redmond. CISH has also partnered with the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition Advocating Together for Health (APICAT), Center for Multicultural Health, Gay City, Public Health – Seattle & King County, The MCUW Club: Minecraft at the University of Washington, echoX and YouthKAN.
The various community partnerships helped create a welcoming space for the young participants, who were 25% Asian, 25% White, 23% Black, 16% Hispanic / Latinx, 2% Middle Eastern, 1% Pacific Islander, 1% Alaska Natives and 7% Métis. A quarter of young participants were not vaccinated and a third of young people said family members were reluctant to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an anonymous survey conducted at the event.
When asked what the main barriers prevent young people and their families from getting vaccinated, the majority of survey participants attributed their reluctance to vaccination to misinformation and fear of the long-term effects. .
To fight against disinformation and language barriers, a young woman shared her experience: “I got in touch with a Vietnamese nurse through APICAT and I made her talk to my mother about the effects and information of the COVID-19 vaccine. . “
Young participants virtually joined two Saturday morning events on September 25 and October 2 on Zoom, where they were greeted by live punk rock performances by King Zaae, a 14-year-old musician from South Seattle.
Becky Reitzes, a Seattle and King County public health educator, then answered questions and concerns from the youth in attendance.
After the main question-and-answer section was completed, the young participants split into smaller groups, led by trained young leaders from public health, where they asked more questions and discussed their experiences during the pandemic. These groups then became their teams for a series of minigames in Minecraft, a video game where people can build and explore worlds. Information about COVID-19 and vaccines has been bolstered by educational maps and games created for young people by the UW Minecraft club.
ICHS provided Minecraft accounts, $ 25 gift cards for attendees to purchase lunch, and prizes for teams who passed the games, which included parkour, drip quiz, creative building and a COVID-themed escape room. At the end of the event, the young people were able to build freely, with a few building structures to show the future they look forward to when the pandemic is over.
Youth questions help eliminate misinformation and misinformation
While Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are used to vaccinate adults, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved the Pfizer vaccine for people under the age of 18, and it is the only vaccine that had full FDA approval at the time of the event.
Young people aged 16 and over were eligible for the Pfizer vaccine while it was still under emergency use authorization designation in December 2020, and adolescents aged 12 to 15 were given the green light in May 2021.
The coronavirus is often less severe in young people, but they can still catch it, pass it on to others, and get sick or require hospitalization, Reitzes said. The underlying conditions more prevalent in communities of color – often caused by environmental and personal circumstances stemming from racist policies, past and present – can exacerbate the disease and make it more deadly.
Vaccination has been shown to prevent disease, but health experts expect it to prevent serious illness and hospitalization, said Yuhani Aly, a young peer who has partnered with Reitzes for the September 25 presentation.
Although variants like Delta, which is predominant in Washington state, are more contagious than the original strain, the vaccines remain highly effective, Reitzes said. If new variants become resistant to the vaccine, scientists will have to develop new ones.
“What will happen is that they will continue to create new vaccines like they do with the flu vaccine,” Reitzes said, noting that the annual flu shot is meant to fight the newer variants. of seasonal flu. “We don’t see it yet. We don’t need it yet.
Then the couple set about debunking the misinformation that has spread about the coronavirus and the vaccine. This misinformation is dangerous not only because it can deter people from getting vaccinated, but it has also prompted people to seek out alternative drugs such as ivermectin, a drug developed as a dewormer for livestock that was later modified. for use in humans.
Do vaccines create changes in menstrual cycles? Occasionally. Do they prevent pregnancy by disrupting your period? No. Is there a magnet inside? An electronic chip ? Fetal tissue? Pork products? Eggs?
“No, no, no, no, no,” Reitzes said.
Communicating good information about the coronavirus and vaccines to young people in environments where they are engaged and at ease is essential for the mission of ICHS and for public health in general. Young people are not vaccinated at the rate expected by health professionals.
Seattle public schools have seen 343 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 296 in students, according to the SPS COVID Dashboard. Among these cases, the largest concentrations were in the central, south-eastern and south-western districts of the district.
“We hope that the young people who attended the summit can pass on what they have learned to their families and peers and become ambassadors of healthy communities,” said ICHS Foundation Executive Director Heidi Wong. “The insight and passion of young people to keep their friends and family safe has been a great inspiration to all of us.