Youth is often a time of awakening and engagement with social movements. From the civil rights movement of the 20th century to climate change and racial equality movements of today, young people have been and continue to be at the forefront of progress. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic still among us and claiming lives, young Americans must step forward once again to help make the world a better, safer place by rolling up sleeves and getting a free, safe and effective vaccine.

Student leaders today have the knowledge and tools at their fingertips to connect with others like never before. At the University of New Mexico, students in the Student Health and Counseling Center have encouraged others to get vaccinated by creating TikTok videos, participating in social media takeovers and tackling misconceptions about the vaccine. Most importantly, they are having one-on-one conversations with their peers about their own reasoning and take time to answer questions.

It’s OK to ask questions. However, decades of scientific research leading to the technology that made these vaccines possible and 381 million doses given in the U.S. over the past nine months have proved the vaccines are safe and effective.



Thanks to the efforts of colleges, universities, school districts, and other partners across New Mexico, vaccines are also conveniently available and always free. Together, K-12 schools and higher education institutions have offered 59 onsite vaccination clinics since Aug. 3, and the Public Education and Higher Education departments continue to press for more.

Young New Mexicans often share that they got vaccinated to protect family members, coworkers and others in their communities, including children under age 12 who so far are not eligible for a vaccine, even though they didn’t feel vulnerable themselves. While any motive for getting vaccinated is a good one, it’s worth noting that with the rise of the delta variant, otherwise young and healthy individuals are seeing a much higher rate of infection and serious illness. If the virus continues to mutate as it spreads, the next iteration could be even more dangerous.

Young New Mexicans, you have the power to help change the course of this virus and get everyone safely back to doing the things they love, in-person and with less worry. This is our shot. Let’s not miss it.

Stephanie Rodriguez is New Mexico’s Cabinet secretary for Higher Education. Kurt Steinhaus is New Mexico’s Public Education secretary designate and a career educator in New Mexico.

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