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Connecticut college students take vaccination message to their communities

The students come from colleges and universities across Connecticut. They are health conscious but not necessarily studying a health-related field.

HAMDEN, Conn. — Getting young people vaccinated. That’s the mission of Connecticut’s Public Health College Corps. On Tuesday they met with state and national leaders to share what they learned about vaccine hesitancy and offer advice on how to reach people.

The students come from colleges and universities across Connecticut. They are health conscious but not necessarily studying a health-related field. In fact, it’s their diverse backgrounds that make them effective in taking the public health message back to their communities.

You’ve heard of social media influencers. Now meet the vaccine influencers. "The vaccine clearly can save lives. I’m trying my best to promote that," said Evan Conderino of Connecticut Public Health College Corps.

The group is 110 students strong. The Connecticut Public Health College Corps convened at Quinnipiac University for a roundtable discussion with state and national leaders about how to increase the vaccination rates. 

"I told them in politics we call it GOTV get out the vote but here it’s getting out the vaccine. Nobody better than a young person who believes it’s the right thing to do for you and your family to deliver that message," said Gov. Ned Lamont.

The College Corps students got a week of education about vaccine science and interpersonal communication skills. After their week of learning, the students were deployed into the community to encourage vaccination and spread their public health knowledge, specifically targeting younger people in communities that are high on the social vulnerability index

"Just because it doesn’t affect you it can affect people around you. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles. People who are high risk. You don’t think about it like that," said Evan Jasek of the Public Health College Corps

Quinnipiac University itself is among a growing number of institutions of higher learning that has mandated the COVID vaccine. 

"What we know about college campuses is they can be super spreaders because people are so close together," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Here in Connecticut only 49.2% of people age 12-15 are vaccinated. 57.3% of 16-24 year olds and 59.8 of 25-34 year olds. 

"That’s the sad part. Everyone thinks because they are young they can stay healthy but it’s just the wrong information," said Conderino.

And because they were targeting young people, these students also learned how to combat social media misinformation. The public health corps hopes their groups serves as a model to other states where vaccination rates are even lower. They hope the FDA’s recent full approval of the Pfizer vaccine will also boost vaccination rates.

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