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Close to three-quarters of Philadelphia adults have gotten at least one dose of the COVID vaccine as of early July, but city data shows only 1 in 10 teens can say the same.

Part of the difference between older and younger Philadelphians’ vaccination rates is because the shot wasn’t authorized for 16- and 17-year-olds until March. The vaccine wasn’t cleared for kids 12 and up until May, five months after it became available to the first eligible adults.

But some teens just don’t want to get vaccinated, or haven’t bothered to do it.

Others have parents who don’t want them to, or they’ve heard negative things about it from people in positions of authority.

“When the vaccine first came out, I was very skeptical of it, because of a conversation one of my teachers had during a class,” high schooler Shirley told Billy Penn. “[The teacher] stated their uncertainties regarding the vaccine and were totally against taking the vaccine — which made me not want to take the vaccine.”

Shirley did eventually get vaccinated. Others, like rising 11th grader Zayna, have not.

“Personally, I will not get that vaccine,” Zayna said in an interview. “One, my dad doesn’t think it’s safe. Second, I just don’t want anything put into my body.”

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The issue looms larger as the start of the next academic year draws closer, and students and teachers have to confront the return to in-person classes.

As part of a citywide campaign called Philly Teen Vaxx, several teenagers have been working to get more of their peers vaccinated, often in collaboration with the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium.

“I just wanted to do whatever I could, what we could to lift them up, because they’re really what’s most important,” said BDCC founder Ala Stanford about working with Philly Teen Vaxx.

“I was already a teenager,” Stanford added. “Now it’s my job to support and nurture, and help them so they can outdo me. And that’s my full expectation, that they will outshine and outperform me.”

Philly Teen Vaxx has been hosting fun events with music and dancing, and trying to break down misinformation that may spread among friends. It’s a myth that teens who contract the virus won’t suffer bad symptoms, for example. And public schools have required other vaccinations for decades.

“Getting the vaccine is important because you can protect your family, your community,” said Philly Teen Vaxx organizer Kayla. “The more teens and adults that get vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to normal.”

Born and raised in Philly, Lamar Reed is a student at the Community College of Philadelphia. He's an aspiring videographer and writer, who's published stories about a mural celebrating a fire department’s...