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Poll: 26% of Gen Z say they'll skip getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Last year, just 5% of Gen Z said they wouldn't get the COVID-19 vaccine. Now, that number has jumped to 26%. Experts say several factors have led to the shift.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This week, the COVID-19 vaccine will be available to everyone 16 and older in North Carolina but Gen Z, people who are currently 25 or younger, may not be signing up for their shots at all. 

Interest in the vaccine is plummeting among young people. Let's connect the dots on why this is happening and the impact it could have on herd immunity and ending the pandemic by stopping the spread of the virus. 

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At the beginning of the pandemic, Gen Z was more eager than any other age group to get the vaccine. In 2020, an NBC poll found that just 5% planned to skip vaccination. 

Fast forward a year later, and that number has jumped to 26%. So what happened? 

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First, as states across the country eased many of their pandemic restrictions, life moved closer to normal for college students. They've been able to go to class, party at bars and even travel for spring break. This semester has moved young people much closer to their pre-pandemic ways than almost any other group. 

Second, some members of Gen Z say they're less concerned about COVID-19 now that older people can get the vaccine. If grandma and grandpa are protected, they don't see why it's necessary for them to get the shot, too, especially since symptoms are often less severe for young people. 

RELATED: Vaccine confidence concerningly low in NC and SC, national data shows

But doctors are warning that this is the wrong mentality to have. The virus can still have long-term effects on young adults and if Gen Z doesn't get vaccinated, we will likely never reach herd immunity

As long as the virus has someone else to infect, it will keep spreading.

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.