Youth ambassadors encourage fellow CPS students to get COVID vaccine ahead of school year

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A group of South Shore Works youth ambassadors have been pounding the pavement all summer, going door to door trying to convince more Chicagoans to get the vaccine.

"If we can just get one person vaccinated, I think I did a lot because that one person can be in contact with thousand other people," said youth ambassador Yukon Townsend.

Despite their efforts, their work has been frustrating and an uphill battle, especially with their own peers.

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Among Chicago's 12-17 year olds, only 37.3% are fully vaccinated and 49.8% have received at least one dose.

"They are going back to school in a month and most of them are not vaccinated, and that is scary for teachers, principals [and] parents," said fellow youth ambassador Melody Jones.

Chicago Public Schools begin August 30, and while CPS does not have an exact number of how many CPS students are vaccinated, demand at their school-based sites has been low.

Elayja Stewart is a 17-year-old CPS student. She believes having youth convince youth is the key to getting more students vaccinated.

"It's not like you have an adult coming to tell you you need to get vaccinated, you have a person your age advocating for you, giving you reasons why you should," Stewart said.

The youth ambassadors said their biggest challenge is overcoming the rumors and apathy.

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"I've heard religious reasons, conspiracy theories, I've heard I don't care, I don't want want to," Jones said.

The Chicago's Teachers Union acknowledges its goal to get 80% of students vaccinated by October will be tough and CPS plans back-to-school events that include vaccinations.

When school starts in just a few weeks, CPS also plans on having standing vaccination sites at schools across the city in neighborhoods with low vaccination rates.

Until then, South Shore Works youth ambassadors will keep trying.
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