“I’m nervous about what’s in the vaccine,” said Ms. Burke, a senior at Western Michigan University who is from Chicago. “I think personally I’ll put it off until I absolutely must get it.”
Ms. Burke said that her family wanted her to get the shot but that she worried about the vaccines affecting women’s reproductive systems, a concern that came up in multiple interviews with young women. Scientists have said there is no evidence that the vaccines affect fertility or pregnancy.
Still, rare but real side effects have emerged as a serious concern, especially for young people who feel they are at low risk from the virus itself. Johnson & Johnson vaccinations were paused briefly this spring after the discovery of rare blood clots in young women. And federal health officials said last week that the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines may have caused heart problems in about 1,200 Americans, many of them under age 30, though they said the benefits of vaccination continued to far outweigh the risks
Not all that long ago, most people in their teens and 20s were not eligible for a vaccine. In the winter and early spring, as demand outpaced supply, states prioritized their oldest and sickest residents for shots. By late April, all adults were eligible. But by then, case numbers had fallen sharply from their winter peak, and demand in the youngest age groups never approached the levels seen among older adults. Many colleges, but far from all, will require students to be vaccinated before returning for fall classes.
“I think that, for the younger generation, we now really have to build the case for them to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Sarah Van Orman, the chief health officer for the University of Southern California’s student health system. “I think we have a long ways to go for that.”
Of course, millions of young adults have already been vaccinated and others still plan to get a shot. Pop-up vaccine clinics at workplaces, transit stops and Major League Soccer games, including one last week in Kansas City, Kan., have helped reach more people in that age group. Several states are trying lotteries and other incentives to drum up interest. Still, many young people said they did not see a pressing reason to get vaccinated.