Biden, Fauci join forces with YouTube creators to combat Gen Z vaccine hesitancy

WASHINGTON — President Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci are collaborating with a group of popular YouTube creators in a series of virtual interviews to combat rising vaccine hesitancy among younger Americans as part of the White House’s broader push to get a majority of the country vaccinated by July 4.

In the series of not-yet-released videos reviewed by Yahoo News, Biden and Fauci, sitting together at the White House, speak over Zoom with Manuel Gutierrez Jr., a 30-year-old makeup artist known as Manny MUA; Jackie Aina, a 33-year-old social justice advocate and makeup artist; and Coyote Peterson and Mark Vins of Brave Wilderness, a group of outdoor and adventure junkies.

(The White House)
President Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci. (The White House)

In the YouTube interviews, slated for release Monday, Biden and Fauci attempt to quell fears from parents who doubt the efficacy and safety of vaccinating their young children, address rumors of federally mandated vaccine passports and push vaccination as a social responsibility. The interviews also highlight the administration’s new partnership with ride share companies Uber and Lyft, which from now through Independence Day are offering free trips to and from designated vaccination sites across the country.

“I think it’s an obligation, an obligation to make sure that even if it’s an even small percentage possibility that you could be a carrier and spread the disease, that you have an obligation,” Biden tells Gutierrez in one video, adding that the country has “the most generous, the most informed, the most caring generation coming up.”

Speaking to Peterson and Vins, Biden highlights vaccinations as a social responsibility for youth. Young people “should not be afraid of the notion that they’re going to get a needle in their arm, that’s No. 1, because it doesn’t hurt,” he says.

While conversations regarding vaccine hesitancy have traditionally been centered around nonwhite or Republican communities, a growing number of members of Generation Z have shown a reluctance to get a COVID shot. Recent NBCLX/Morning Consult polling found that adults between 18 and 34 are the “most likely generation to say they will either not get vaccinated (23%) or don’t yet know (21%), with Gen Z adults (18-23) particularly disinterested.”

Manuel Gutierrez Jr. of MannyMUA speaks with Dr. Anthony Fauci and President Joe Biden during President Biden's Youtube Town Hall on COVID-19 Vaccination (Manny Mua/Youtube)
Manuel Gutierrez Jr., center, speaks with Fauci and Biden during a YouTube town hall on COVID-19 vaccination. (Manny MUA via YouTube)

That number spiked significantly compared with polling conducted in March of last year, when only 5 percent of Gen Z adults said they wouldn’t get a vaccine if offered.

Vins tells Yahoo News the interview is an opportunity to arm their viewers, many of whom regularly watch their videos with family members, with the most accurate vaccine information available.

“We want them to be informed so they can make the best decisions possible. I believe in preserving the freedom to choose whether or not to be vaccinated, but having the information to make the right decision for you is critical,” Vins says.

Gutierrez, who has his own beauty line, tells Yahoo News that people ages 18-24 and 25-30 make up the bulk of his audience, and that he feels he has a social responsibility to his viewers, even though his channel primarily focuses on beauty.

“Just because I’m a beauty guru who loves to play with makeup doesn’t mean I don’t want to use my platform to help in other areas if I can,” Gutierrez says.

The White House sees its collaboration with YouTube influencers highly involved in Gen Z spaces as a prime opportunity, as the administration’s July 4 deadline for “getting the nation closer to normal” just in time for backyard barbecues is fast approaching. According to data collected by the Manifest, 89 percent of Gen Z-ers watch YouTube videos at least once a week.

During the onset of the pandemic, Fauci appeared in over a dozen interviews with several genres of YouTube creators to dispel rumors and answer common COVID questions; some of those videos amassed over 5 million views.

Dr. Anthony Fauci (The White House)
Dr. Anthony Fauci. (The White House)

“We continue to be focused on making sure people are getting information about the vaccination through the messengers they know and trust,” White House digital director Rob Flaherty told Yahoo News. “These influencers are just those messengers, and this town hall is another step to reach and vaccinate young Americans who need protection from this deadly virus as we work to achieve the president’s goal of 70 percent of adult Americans vaccinated by July 4.”

YouTube feels that its platform has a social responsibility as well.

“It’s critical that we help motivate younger people to get vaccinated, and to do that we need to show up where they are, and that’s online and on YouTube,” said Dr. Garth Graham, global head of health care and public health partnerships at YouTube.

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