New campaign tackles vaccine hesitancy in Baltimore teens

Posted at 4:53 PM, Oct 07, 2021

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — There’s a new campaign in Baltimore, using hip hop to build vaccine confidence in the city’s youth because Baltimore City is 20 percent below the state average on vaccinations for teens.

“We know there are a fair number of people who haven’t decided not to get the vaccine but they want more information,” said Dr. Tamar Mendelson, co-leader of the campaign and director of the Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

The goal of the campaign, called Voices on Vax, is to get teens the information in a fun and interactive way.

“Making sure it’s informative but also funny and keeping people’s attention. We don’t want anything that’s boring and just talking about the vaccine because we have enough of that,” said Taylor Clinton.

Clinton is one of four youth ambassadors. She’s in charge of content creation, making funny memes for their social media accounts.

“It was an opportunity about helping community and informing, especially African Americans and youth, about the vaccine, where it comes from, different things like that,” said youth ambassador Taylor Clinton.

Funded by the CDC, they are using an interactive website, social media and videos to address misconceptions about the vaccine and what to expect when you get the shot.

Clinton, 19, said a lot of youth in the city are afraid to get it because of what they have seen on social media.

“Because so many people are offering different things to get the vaccine, that is causing a lot of fear in getting it, because people are feeling why are they forcing us to get it, people are losing jobs,” said Clinton.

44 percent of city teens 12-17 are fully vaccinated, compared to the statewide average of 63 percent for that age group.

“What we are seeing from the delta variant is that more and more young people are getting sick and dying so it’s critical that we reach young people,” said Dr. Mendelson.

Dr. Mendelson said the campaign is coming at a very important time.

“Now that vaccines are becoming available for younger kids, we really want young people in Baltimore to take advantage of this and stay healthy

Teens will also have the opportunity to create their own verses on COVID vaccination and enter them in contests to win prizes. Over the course of the campaign, youth ambassadors will host live Q&A sessions and virtual town hall events.

The project is a collaboration with the Hopkins Institute for Vaccine Safety Institute, the youth leadership development nonprofit HeartSmiles, and Hip Hop Public Health.