The night before Jaclyn Cossarini got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, she couldn’t sleep.
“I was so excited when I got the appointment, it felt like Christmas morning,” said Ms. Cossarini, a 22-year-old post-graduate student at Humber College. “I couldn’t believe it until it was in my arm. ... It kind of felt like a first step on the road back to normalcy.”
Ms. Cossarini belongs to one of the most vaccinated age groups in Toronto: Seventy-nine per cent of Torontonians between the ages of 18 and 24 have received at least one dose, tied with those aged 75 to 79, who were given the green light for their first shots months earlier. The one age group that exceeds that vaccination rate are people between 70 and 74, about 80 per cent of whom have received at least one dose, according to Toronto Public Health data released on June 7.
“It shows a remarkable, impressive commitment,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, who chairs the city’s board of health. “You know the adage ‘the kids are all right’? In Toronto, they’re not only all right, they’re stepping up.”
He added that this level of uptake could be in part because of the city’s “relentless outreach” to Toronto’s young people to encourage them to get vaccinated.
Ms. Cossarini said she was thrilled to get the vaccine to help the community, especially her family. She lives in Toronto with her parents, who are full-time caregivers for her grandparents. Two of her family members are also front-line workers.
“It was less so about myself and more so about everyone else and doing my part,” she said.
When 27-year-old Zahra Vaid got her first dose, it “felt like the social engagement of the year.” Ms. Vaid, who splits her time living in Toronto and in Ajax with her family, said getting vaccinated meant she was “getting closer to hugging” her grandfather again.
About 52 per cent of Torontonians between the ages of 12 and 17 have been vaccinated with their first dose, which Mr. Cressy said was impressive considering that vaccines have only been broadly available to them for a few weeks.
The eligible group with the next lowest vaccination rates in the city are people between 30 and 54. Depending on the more specific age bracket they fall into, their rates range from 64.9 per cent to 69.4 per cent, even though they were able to book their shots before younger Torontonians. Mr. Cressy said the city is still trying to determine why there hasn’t been as big an uptake for that age group, but will “break every barrier and build every bridge to vaccine access.”
“The message is the same for every single Torontonian: Vaccines are safe, they’re effective and ultimately they’re how we beat this pandemic,” he said. “The level of [vaccination] is remarkable, but we’re not done yet. We need to keep going until everybody can access their vaccines.”
In other regions, the age groups who were prioritized for the vaccine tend to outpace younger populations who were only recently able to book their shots.
Meanwhile, the national daily rates of COVID-19 cases have been highest among people between the ages of 20 and 39, according to data released Friday by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Young Torontonians’ increased risk of exposure could be another factor in their high vaccination rates, said Nik Nanos, the founder and chief data scientist of Nanos Research, which has conducted polling on Canadians’ attitudes toward the COVID-19 vaccine. Many are likely front-line workers, he added.
Based on conversations with people in that age group, Mr. Cressy said it seems as if many are “yearning” to return to pre-pandemic life, and so are eager to get vaccinated.
Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, which has conducted polling in partnership with Leger on attitudes surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations, said pandemic restrictions can be “felt unevenly” by younger people since “their lifestyle is a bit different” than those in other age groups, particularly when it comes to social activity and travel.
“I think we’re just tired,” said Kamila Karolinczak, a 26-year-old Ottawa resident. “We want to get our lives back.”
Many people in their 20s credited social media for helping them figure out when and where they could get vaccinated. In Ottawa, Ms. Karolinczak learned about a pop-up vaccine event called Jabapalooza, hosted by Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth, through Twitter, and was able to get her first dose there Saturday. Others follow accounts such as Vaccine Hunters Canada on Twitter for updates.
Ms. Vaid said she noticed that people were “so concerned” with helping friends and families get vaccinated, and used social media to spread the word. People she hadn’t spoken to in years reached out to ensure she had the information she needed.
“I think social media was instrumental not just [for] me, but [for] everybody I know in my age group in getting vaccinated,” Ms. Vaid said. “We were all looking out for each other and it really was this community care.”
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