Guest Essays, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Guest essay: 10 reasons young people should get the vaccine

by Dr. Clay Marsh

Dear Students,

COVID-19 has turned our world upside-down and limited many treasured parts of the West Virginia University experience. Safe, effective COVID vaccines are a game-changer, and these vaccines are now available to all West Virginia residents age 16 and older, as well as to all students attending classes within the West Virginia University system. 

One note I would like to stress: Even if you have previously tested positive for COVID-19, you should get the vaccine to add an extra layer of protection against re-infection. 

As immortal as young adults often feel, you are not immune from this virus. In fact, people between the ages of 10 and 19 now make up most new cases in West Virginia, followed by those between the ages of 20 and 29. 

This is a critical time. Both active cases and hospitalizations have been trending upward recently in our state. Highly contagious variants are spreading rapidly across the country. The UK variant — which has been identified in Morgantown and across the state — is about 50% more infectious and about 50% more lethal. It also seems to be making more children and young adults sick than other strains of the virus. 

As a young person, you are at risk of having severe consequences from COVID. You are also capable of spreading these variants to more vulnerable people in our state — including your older family members.

To keep variants from spreading, we must increase the number of people who have immunity to them.

The good news is that the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines available today are effective against those variants. They are also extremely safe and cause minimal side effects for most people.

The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner we will have a measure of safety and be able to resume learning, social and travel experiences that resemble normalcy.

Vaccination appointments are available this week. See to learn how to schedule your appointment.

To help, here’s a list of 10 reasons why you should get vaccinated for COVID-19: 

  1. Once you’re vaccinated, you don’t need to quarantine if you’re exposed to someone with COVID-19 (unless you have symptoms).
  2. Once you’re vaccinated, travel becomes much easier. You can visit areas outside West Virginia without having to quarantine for five days upon your return. As you think about traveling for vacations, you’ll also be better protected on mass transportation like planes and trains. 
  3. Once you’re vaccinated, you can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask and keeping your distance. That means you can see your friends – safely – who are already vaccinated. 
  4. You can safely hug your fully vaccinated family members without fear of spreading the virus. When you’re around them after being fully vaccinated, data is beginning to show that vaccines may protect you from passing the virus to others. 
  5. You can attend more in-person events without fear of contracting COVID-19. As more and more individuals are vaccinated, you’ll start to see the return of concerts, fuller arenas and stadiums and many other events that we’ve not experienced for the past year.
  6. You can visit the gym, workout around others, and feel safer to do so. With that in mind, it may allow the University to reopen the Student Rec Center sooner. 
  7. If you do get COVID-19, we know vaccinations help keep you out of the hospital.
  8. The faster we get vaccinated, the faster we can all lose those masks. 
  9. These vaccines are proven to be safe and effective; the science that helped create the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines has been around for decades.
  10. You will join a list of people that grows by the millions each day in the country who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Perhaps at its core, it’s most important for you to be vaccinated so that you can support the communities you love. Receiving this vaccine is a form of community service — an opportunity to give back. 

Without you and 75% of our WVU community, we will struggle to return to a new normal. We need your help. We need you to trust in the science, as I have, and as millions of Americans around the country have, as well. 

We can move fast in this moment, but we must do it together. And together, we will come back stronger than ever. 

Dr. Clay Marsh is the vice president and executive dean of West Virginia University Health Sciences.