FLINT — As more people become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, a local college student is harnessing social media to help promote the vaccine to her generation.
Christina El Zarka, a Swartz Creek High School alum and current freshman honors student at the University of Michigan-Flint, has launched the Save Summer 2021 campaign to educate GenZers and millennials about the COVID-19 vaccine and convince them to take it before engaging in summer activities this year.
To introduce the campaign, El Zarka produced an online video to highlight facts about the vaccine and create urgency among her peers to get vaccinated. Along with helping to combat the COVID-19 virus, she wants Save Summer 2021 to ignite excitement and hope for the summer.
“We all want to get our lives back to normal, and the quickest way to do that is by getting the vaccine,” she said. “If 70 to 80 percent of the country’s population gets vaccinated this spring, we’ll have a better chance to have concerts and festivals again and enjoy summer without the fear of the virus.”
El Zarka, 19, recently conducted a social media poll on Instagram to see how many among her circle of friends would be getting a COVID-19 vaccine this year. To her surprise, 44 percent of the 400 people she polled said they would not be taking the vaccine.
“I was very concerned when I saw that so many people I knew—mostly around my age—said they were not planning to get vaccinated,” she said. “I thought people in my generation would know better. This is a terrible virus that has caused the entire world to shut down, and now we finally have the vaccine to end it.”
In a separate survey conducted through her university, El Zarka discovered that many people were reluctant to take a COVID-19 vaccine due to concerns about side effects or how quickly the vaccines have been produced.
El Zarka said she respects the decisions of those who choose not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. However, she also intends to create awareness about the FDA-approved vaccine’s benefits and safety.
“We really need to trust the scientists who have dedicated their entire lives to studying science,” said El Zarka, a biology student who’s studying to become a doctor. “For me, this is not about making a political statement; it’s about getting the word out there.”
In addition to targeting her generation, El Zarka is hoping that her campaign will gain traction with social media influencers, music festival organizers, celebrities and health professionals. Above all, she wants her generation to be ready to step up and get vaccinated when COVID-19 vaccines become available to the general public this spring.
“The virus might not have the same effect on (GenZers) as it might on an older person, but they can still spread it to others,” she said. “The vaccine will protect you and your loved ones and help all of us to celebrate life together again.”
El Zarka’s Save Summer 2021 video was produced with the help of U of M-Flint’s Entrepreneurs Society, a student organization that helps young entrepreneurs turn creative ideas into productive ventures.
The Save Summer 2021 video can be viewed on multiple social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about the campaign at savesummer2021.com.