Trend Alert: Vaccine Rivalries

Trend Alert introduces you to the latest trends that are impacting the daily lives of 16-24s.

As the COVID vaccine rollout continues apace in the US and UK, young people are now becoming eligible for their first shot. While Millennials and Gen Y marked the moment with vaccine selfies, Gen Z are celebrating in their own unique way – with a TikTok trend, of course! Several videos have gone viral featuring young people announcing their membership of the Pfizer or Moderna gang, and even debating which is the vaccine for “hot people.”

These TikTokers are celebrating getting vaccinated as they see it as a passport to freedom, but they are also expressing their support for vaccination and encouraging friends and followers to follow suit. As a more progressive group, you would expect Gen Z to be keen to get the vaccine but actually there is a surprising amount of scepticism or hesitancy. A recent STAT-Harris poll found that 21% of 18-24s said they wouldn’t get the vaccine and another 34% said they would wait and see how others were affected. This could be because they know they’re less vulnerable to COVID, so the risk calculation is different compared to their parents and grandparents. However, their participation will be vital to reach herd immunity.

In light of their research, STAT raised the concern that pro-vaccination messaging and information campaigns are not reaching the younger generation, as they are primarily targeted at the older groups who were invited to get the vaccine first. They found that initiatives such as Instagram’s COVID-19 Information Centre were not effective as people were simply ignoring the automated pop-ups since they’ve become such a customary part of the Instagram experience by this point in the pandemic.

Aside from the TikTok memes, there are some grassroots initiatives that are tackling the issue of vaccine scepticism among Gen Z. For example, many US colleges now have a COVID Campus Coalition – a student group that advocates for vaccination, aiming to address their peers’ concerns and dispel misinformation. These groups have created Instagram pages featuring engaging content that explains the benefits in a way that makes sense to young people. While it’s impressive that these young people have taken up this challenge, it shouldn’t be their responsibility alone. If you work for a brand that has a youth audience, now’s the time to consider what you can do to help raise awareness of this important message and direct your audience to trustworthy resources.

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