Can Olivia Rodrigo And Anthony Fauci TikTok Tour Spur Gen Z To Get Vaccinated? : Shots - Health News Only about 42% of 18- to 24-year-olds are fully vaccinated. Eager to reach them, the White House is calling in pop stars and trying to spread the word on TikTok.

Gen Z Is Feeling 'Meh' About The Vaccine. The White House Is Calling In The Pop Stars

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The octogenarian and septuagenarian working to defeat the pandemic in the U.S. are trying very hard to reach Gen Z. Dr. Anthony Fauci has started showing up on TikTok. President Biden posed for pictures in sunglasses with 18-year-old pop star Olivia Rodrigo. Their efforts underscore one of the roadblocks to vaccinating more Americans - many young people just aren't rushing to roll up their sleeves. NPR's Sam Gringlas reports.

SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: Last spring, James Lifton and Arham Imran arrived on campus at Texas A&M University. They were both transfer students. And so when they ended up in line together at the campus Panda Express...

JAMES LIFTON: We just started talking. And we sat, and we got our food. And then we were like, hey, let's just keep on hanging out.

GRINGLAS: They became fast friends.

LIFTON: And one of the things we like to do is we like to argue about political issues (laughter). We were just talking about, like, the vaccine. Is it worth it?

GRINGLAS: Lifton wanted to get it right away. He worried about spreading the virus to his parents. Imran was hesitant. He wondered whether it was developed too fast. And then, when Lifton did get the shot, Imran was surprised by how sick it made his friend.

LIFTON: Yeah.

ARHAM IMRAN: I had to bring him Gatorade...

LIFTON: It was bad.

IMRAN: ...And his lunch. I really did not want to be bedridden for two or three days. COVID doesn't really affect a lot of people of my age, and so I didn't feel any sense of urgency to get it.

GRINGLAS: The CDC says about 60% of all adults are fully vaccinated. That's compared to only 42% for people 18 to 24. Jordan Tralins, a rising junior at Cornell, is trying to narrow that divide. So she started the COVID Campus Coalition.

JORDAN TRALINS: People from my generation don't spend their free time sifting through scientific literature. We really look at what's on our social media. And that influences the way that we think.

GRINGLAS: Scrolling through Instagram and TikTok, Tralins noticed feeds full of misinformation, like this video from a TikToker with 65,000 followers and a #Trump2020 in the bio.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: OK, let me explain something to you. I'm not getting the COVID vaccine. And a lot of people want to know why.

GRINGLAS: One reason that pops up a lot - and to be clear, without evidence - is that the vaccines cause infertility. On TikTok, Tralins knocks down myths like that one and explains how the shots work.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

TRALINS: First, we're going to take some mRNA. This will give your body instructions for your cells to make a spike protein. This spike protein will help produce COVID antibodies, but it is harmless.

GRINGLAS: Her group now has chapters on almost 30 campuses.

TRALINS: My generation is not as selfish as I think we're always painted to be. I just think that some young individuals were misguided through this process.

GRINGLAS: The White House may be catching on - hence, Olivia Rodrigo's White House visit and Dr. Fauci's TikTok tour.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

ANTHONY FAUCI: Hi, Mia.

MIA FINNEY: Nice to meet you, Dr. Fauci.

FAUCI: Same here. Thank you for what you're doing. It's really...

GRINGLAS: The administration also launched a campus vaccine challenge, among other efforts. But it hasn't been easy. In Washington, D.C., only 30% of young adults are vaccinated. And the disparity between wealthy and white neighborhoods and working-class Black and brown ones is still huge. Here's City Council Member Christina Henderson.

CHRISTINA HENDERSON: For many of them, they do know family members who have passed away because of this virus and still somehow thinking that they're super hero-immune to it. So we just have a lot of work to do.

GRINGLAS: Henderson says incentives like gift cards only do so much. She suggested money for college tuition and having the right people making the pitch.

HENDERSON: You or me or President Biden probably aren't the best messengers for this particular group of folks. And so what are the other credible messengers that we're getting out there who can have real conversations with young people?

GRINGLAS: In Louisiana, State Health Officer Joseph Kanter says hesitancy among young people worries him. It's one factor holding down the state's low vaccination rate. In focus groups, though, Kanter's been hearing something that gives him hope.

JOSEPH KANTER: The answer, usually, of folks who haven't yet gotten vaccinated is, yeah, I'll probably get vaccinated at some point, I'm just not there yet.

GRINGLAS: Which is why James Lifton is still working on his friend Arham Imran.

LIFTON: Do it not just for yourself, but do it for those around you. I think all of us can agree that we want to go back to where we can shake hands with people, we can hug our family, we can hang out with our friends.

GRINGLAS: Imran is weighing the decision carefully. He might get the shot before fall semester starts. For now, he's still on the fence.

Sam Gringlas, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE LIMINANAS SONG, "(I'VE GOT) TROUBLE IN MIND")

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