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Jars full of empty COVID-19 vaccine vials at a pharmacy in Toronto, on April 6.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Banin Hassan said there is only one reason she would consider getting another shot of a COVID-19 vaccine to boost her first two doses.

“If they make it mandatory and restrict activities or travel from my life again, I would consider it ‘cause I love to travel,” said the consultant, who is 27.

“Other than that, there isn’t anything that would change my mind.”

Canadian government data shows young adults lag other age groups in getting boosted. About 35 per cent of people between 18 and 29 have received a third dose. That goes up to 42 per cent for 30- to 39-year-olds. On average, 72 per cent of Canadians 40 and older have received theirs.

A Calgary-based doctor who has studied vaccine hesitancy said he is not surprised young adults are behind.

“Even before the booster, with the second and the first dose, we did see much lower uptake in the 25 [age group] compared to the 65-plus community,” said Dr. Jia Hu, who leads a group that advises on how to increase uptake.

Dr. Hu is the CEO of 19 to Zero, a group made up of doctors, nurses, economists and other experts, who aim to help governments, companies and communities across Canada build trust in vaccines.

“One thing that allowed us to get vaccine uptake rates higher in the 30-range was vaccine mandates, because I don’t think there’s hesitancy in this population [about the shots themselves],” Dr. Hu said. “In that age group, people are less concerned about COVID causing severe illness. Mandates let them live life again.”

Ms. Hassan’s partner, Humam Yahya, 28, acknowledged the benefits vaccines provide in reducing severe illness, but questioned the need to keep getting shots.

“You just get a booster every eight months or 10 months and there’s no end date to it,” he said. “You’re just taking these vaccinations … and I’m sure they have great benefits, but also we don’t know the long-term side-effects.”

Mr. Yahya said he was fearful at first about getting COVID-19 because he has asthma.

“I sheltered myself a lot. But then a lot of friends that did get COVID, their side-effects and what they got was nowhere near what I thought it would be, so I lost a lot of fear there.”

Ms. Hassan added some distant family members died early in the pandemic. More recently, she’s observed close family members and friends who had COVID-19, but with mild symptoms.

“My father has kidney failure and he’s on his fourth dose. I’m fully understanding of him needing to do that because his health is a bit more compromised. I would even encourage him to continue getting it. For me, I don’t find COVID a high risk at this point,” said Ms. Hassan, who lives in Hamilton, Ont.

She and Mr. Yahya say some friends, particularly women, had bad reactions to the vaccine, so the couple is wary of getting too many doses.

Liza Samadi, 25, a pharmacy assistant from Hamilton, said she hasn’t gone for a booster because it’s not mandatory.

“I was really lazy,” she said, with a laugh.

“I just kept delaying, but then I ended up getting COVID [in January], so I was, like, ‘Okay, I guess I’m pretty boosted enough for now so there’s no need for me to get it.’ ”

Ms. Samadi said her whole family has had COVID-19, so they’re not in a rush to get boosted, but would go for a third shot if it became mandatory.

Dr. Hu said he “strongly, strongly, strongly” recommends all Canadians get boosted because protection from two doses wanes after about six months “and the booster gets you right back.”

While booster uptake in young adults is too low, Dr. Hu said he doesn’t believe 18- to 29-year-olds with COVID-19 will overwhelm hospitals.

“Do I think some 25-year-olds still might get hospitalized and die?” he said. “Yeah, I do.”

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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