Cumberland teen encourages others to get vaccinated: The story of a Maryland hometown hero

Maryland

CUMBERLAND, Md. (WDVM) — COVID-19 vaccines are available to children and teens as young as 12 years old and the Maryland Department of Health is encouraging young people to get their vaccine by highlighting hometown heroes across the state who have rolled up their sleeve for their shot.

Although a COVID vaccine was required for Rutgers University freshman and Cumberland native Jalen Miller to live on campus this fall, he was more than ready to roll up his sleeve when the time came for his shot. Miller explains he wasn’t scared to get his shot as he wanted to start enjoying his life again while also protecting those around him.

“It was important to protect me and my family and friends,” Miller said. “I think that life sorta took a long pause and really went by fast throughout the quarantine so I’m just happy that by getting this shot I was able to, like, sort of live normal again.”

The Bishop Walsh High School alum is now a member of the Rutgers University Men’s Basketball team and is looking forward to playing this winter after his senior season was cut short due to the pandemic. He explained his team was only able to play a fraction of their scheduled games and were forced to play in a bubble. They also were subjected to rigorous COVID testing throughout the season.

“I didn’t have a senior year like that and I guess I was used to it at that time,” Miller said. “But now that I’m vaccinated and everything, it’s just like, imagine if I had gone the shot earlier.”

Jalen hopes he can encourage other students like him who may be hesitant to get their shot. He says he not only wants them to have a better high school experience than he did but also to be mindful and respectful of those around them. He wants people to understand that the COVID vaccine will not only protect themselves but loved ones and people who could fall seriously ill if they contract the virus.

“COVID is real, it’s not a joke like, I hope that nobody else wants to experience going through a whole nother quarantine process and losing valuable time with your life.”

Jalen Miller

The Pfizer COVID vaccine is available to children as young as 12 years old. While 12 to 15-year-olds make up 5 percent of the total U.S. population, only 3.8 percent of those children have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 16 and 17-year-olds make up 2.5 percent of the population and only 2.3 percent of that population have received one dose. 18 to 24-year-olds, the population Jalen falls under, consists of 9.2 percent of the total population, and just 8.6 percent of that age group have received at least one dose according to the most recent dataset from the Centers for Disease Control.

“Even though COVID may not be life-threatening to you, it definitely is to others,” Miller explained.

To find a vaccination site near you or for more information about the available COVID vaccines for teens and adolescents, please visit the Maryland Department of Health COVID vaccine website.

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