Protect Michigan Commission promotes vaccine awareness for teenagers and Native American populations

Negaunee High School senior Jillian Skewis was selected as one of the commission’s COVID-19 student ambassadors.
Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 5:18 PM EDT
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UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WLUC) - Governor Whitmer’s Protect Michigan Commission is promoting vaccine awareness to groups in the U.P. with low vaccination rates.

According to the LMAS District Health Department, more than 50% of eligible residents in Marquette and Ontonagon counties are at least partially vaccinated. However, older populations make up most of that percentage.

“Vaccination rates decrease in each of the younger age groups, all the way down to less than 5% in the 16- to 19-year-old age group,” said Nick Derusha, a health officer for LMAS.

Derusha says some young people are unaware they are eligible for the vaccine, while others believe they don’t need it because of their age.

“We are now seeing that younger people are getting sick and are able to spread COVID just as easily as older people,” said Derusha.

To promote the vaccine to teens, the commission has selected COVID-19 student ambassadors. One of those ambassadors is Jillian Skewis, a senior at Negaunee High School.

“I’m asking all Michigan teenagers who are eligible to please get vaccinated,” Skewis said.

She says she wants to be an advocate to those her own age with concerns about the vaccine.

“I believe connecting with a peer who shares these concerns and has experiences with receiving the vaccine has a more lasting impact than hearing from someone a little bit older who doesn’t relate as well,” said Skewis.

The commission is also working to reach Native American and tribal populations. It is highlighting vaccination efforts by the Bay Mills Indian Community

“Bay Mills Indian Community and the Sault Ste. Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians alone here in the eastern Upper Peninsula have administered 18,000 vaccines at our vlinics,” said Whitney Gravelle, president of the Bay Mills Indian Community Executive Council. “We won’t stop working until we get all individuals in northern Michigan and across our entire state vaccinated.”

The Bay Mills Indian Community has announced a new campaign to encourage Native Americans in the U.P. to register for the vaccine. In the coming weeks, tribal vaccine clinics will offer the Moderna vaccine to any Michigan resident 18 or older.

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