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Optimist Hall hosts vaccine clinic in increased effort to vaccinate young people

The clinic, which ran from noon to 4 p.m., was open to the public to get either their first or second shot of the Moderna vaccine.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Vaccine providers in Mecklenburg County are ramping up efforts to get young people vaccinated by holding vaccination clinics at popular hangouts in the Queen City.

They're trying to making getting the shot more convenient. Everybody 16 and older has been eligible to get vaccinated for almost three weeks but data shows 18 to 24 year-olds are not getting the shots as quickly.

On Tuesday, RAO Community Health held a walk-up vaccination clinic at Optimist Hall. 

"That is the age group that's out a good bit, out recreationally as well as out professionally in many of the essential job roles," Ashley Carmenia with RAO Community Health said of young adults.

The clinic ran from noon to 4 p.m. was open to the public to get either their first or second shot of the Moderna vaccine.

"It was just more of a convenience thing. I was in the area and my boss informed me it would be easy to stop in and walk-ins are welcome," Jonathan Anthony said after his vaccination. "So, I figured on my lunch break I'll stop by and get a little bit healthier."

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Anthony said he was "on the fence" about getting a shot because he is young and generally healthy. He's not alone, vaccine providers have said it's a common thought process among young adults.

"The age group 18-24 is not a large number that we've seen in our office," Bernard Davis, the CEO of RAO Community Health, said.

State data shows 18 to 24 year-olds make up 9% of Mecklenburg County's population. Of that group, only 6.6% have gotten at least one COVID-19 shot.

But providers are working to change that by catering to the age group that's used to having most everything in an instant, bringing the shots places they'll already be to help overcome hesitancy and make it so easy, it's hard to pass up.

"I live pretty close by so this was pretty convenient," Madelynn Laurie said.

Vaccine clinics are planned at local breweries too. 

"We've made getting vaccinated easier than ever," Dr. David Priest with Novant Health said.

There will be another vaccination clinic at Optimist Hall on Thursday. It runs from 4 to 7 p.m. The idea is to make it convenient for people after work.

For 16 and 17 year-olds who can get the Pfizer vaccine, the convenient place is school.

"Being vaccinated gives the students some confidence, and the teachers' confidence and the staff confidence that they're more safe than when we didn't have a vaccine," Dr. Chip Buckwell, Superintendent of Kannapolis City Schools, said.

The district will partner with the Cabarrus Health Alliance to hold a clinic for students and the general public at A.L. Brown High School on Friday.

Next month, Cabarrus County Schools will do the same.

"If you're anxious about the vaccine and you see a peer get the vaccine, that information shared anecdotally between parents and kids in the community is probably more powerful than a famous person getting on TV and saying hey go get your shot," Buckwell said.

Some providers in the area have started using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after an 11-day pause. The single-dose was originally appealing to many young people and it could be key as the CDC reports millions of Americans are skipping their second dose.

But the pause is making more people want to explore their options.

"We do believe patients should have a right to choose which product is best for them," Priest said. "The goal will be to offer an mRNA vaccine, every one we offer a Johnson & Johnson vaccine."

Novant Health and Atrium Health have not started using the J&J shots yet.

The Mecklenburg County Health Department started using them again on Tuesday.

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. 

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Contact Richard Vayne at rdevayne@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. 

RELATED: North Carolina vaccine providers starting to give the Johnson & Johnson vaccine again after pause