Maryland college, high school students say yes, they want to get vaccinated

When Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that COVID-19 vaccinations would be available to anyone 16 and older in Maryland, he said recent data was showing a growing number of younger people contracting the coronavirus.

“Getting more people — younger people — vaccinated faster is certainly a goal,” Hogan said.

WTOP asked college and high school students whether they were eager to get vaccinated.

Sean Quiroga, 19, a student at Montgomery College, said, “There’s a good portion of students who are excited” about getting vaccinated. “They want to get back to normal.”

But Quiroga said others have expressed reservations, questioning the speed in which the new vaccines were developed.

At a recent student senate meeting, Quiroga urged everyone to get vaccinated “Because I feel like this is the only way we can go back to somewhat of a ‘new normal,’ and we can beat this pandemic.”

Quiroga has not been out of lot since the pandemic started, and his message to his friends is this virus is “no joke.”

Madison Oswald, another Montgomery College student, said among students she has talked to, people are extremely eager to get vaccinated.

“We want to be around people,” Oswald said. “We want to learn in a classroom. We want to be able to make memories, and right now, that’s just not something we can do.”

Oswald, 20, said she’d like to be vaccinated as well, but has underlying health conditions –gastroparesis and gastroesophageal reflux disease — that prompted her to ask her doctors to weigh in.

“For the past year, I’ve had a really bad flare-up. I actually can’t eat solid food right now,” she said.

But when it comes to the coronavirus vaccine, Oswald said, “If my doctors tell me I can get it, I’m going to go get it.”

Alex Freeman, 22, is the student government association president at Morgan State University, and he is eager to get vaccinated. He recently received a notification that he has an appointment Friday afternoon.

Among the students he spoke to at Morgan State, he says “it’s 50-50” when it comes to those who want to get vaccinated and those taking a wait-and-see approach.

Freeman said some are resistant to the notion that they might not be able to opt-out should vaccinations be mandated.

“Some of them don’t have a reason to not get the vaccine, but just the notion that you’re forcing someone to do it, that’s the problem,” Freeman said, adding that others are questioning the rapid approval process for the vaccines.

One group solidly behind getting vaccinated, according to Freeman, is athletes. “They want to play their sports.”

He said the cancelation of events due to outbreaks have been challenging. “They’re kind of tired of it, and they’re ready to get back on the field or the court,” Freeman said.

“Just about all of my friends have either gotten appointments or gotten their first shot,” Anand Chitnis, 18, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School, said.

Chitnis has been helping friends navigate the appointment system. He’s been following a Twitter account that updates automatically whenever any pharmacy offers vaccine appointments.

Since getting his own appointment, Chitnis created a guide that includes “tips about using the vaccine schedulers and things you should know about scheduling your appointment.”

Among the students he knows are not signing up to get vaccinated, Chitnis said one concern their parents have is the need for additional information before starting the appointment process.

“There’s been a little bit of fear about what happens with the side effects,” and that’s one reason Chitnis said he shared his experience with side effects when he got his first vaccination. “So there’s a lot of transparency about the different vaccines.”

One of those who got an appointment through Chitnis’ assistance is Nick Asante, the student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education.

“A lot of young people definitely are hunting it down,” Asante said.

Asante said he hasn’t run into students who are unwilling to get vaccinated but knows that some are confused about how and where to get appointments.

“A lot of us are looking forward to the world reopening again,” Asante said. “Some younger people sometimes felt they were bulletproof or that they didn’t have to worry about it, but now we’re seeing that they really do need to worry about it.”

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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