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When talking to youth about COVID-19 vaccines, listening is often key.

Rinn Cronin Kleinman’s life hasn’t always been easy. She experienced homelessness from ages 13 to 17. After growing up on the East Coast, she moved to Washington 5 years ago and found a home fighting for children’s rights. 

“I grew up in a lot of negative experiences,” she said. “As a queer youth, as a person who is Jewish and Pagan, people weren’t always kind to me. Now that I’m able to use my voice to advocate, I use my privilege as a power.”

Those lived experiences help her connect with youth in Pierce County. At age 22, she’s close enough to childhood to understand what so many kids are going through, but she also has the battle scars to offer guidance and advice.

Kleinman works with Oasis Youth Center and PC2 to connect children and adolescents with important resources such as help with housing, healthcare and other important needs. She lobbies for laws in Olympia on their behalf. Her latest mission is to help break down barriers to COVID-19 vaccines. 

Rinn Cronin Kleinman

Leading by example.

Kleinman didn’t hesitate to get vaccinated, and now that experience helps her in discussions with youth and others. Part of her work includes one-on-one check-ins, where she offers help and guidance to youth in need.

“I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine the day before they paused it,” she said. “I talk about that to help spread awareness.”

“It’s a topic that comes up often,” she said.

“Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of, ‘Oh, but J&J,’” she said. “So, I like to talk a lot about those concerns. Since I have the experience, I’ve used that to my advantage in talking to folks in the community, and it helps.”

Kleinman reminds people the Federal Government lifted a brief pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after a safety review on April 23 showed the vaccine’s risk was very low. Like all vaccines, Johnson & Johnson continues to be watched closely for safety.

Children 12-17 years old are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Kleinman says she talks to kids about the risks and rewards surrounding vaccination, and she finds information is the key. She appreciates their curiosity and willingness to have a conversation.

“I talk a lot about why we should get vaccinated and what community immunity is,” she said. “It’s all about how to support each other.”

Simple but important.

Kleinman has an easy approach when talking to youth, knowing that no one wants a lecture. She says asking questions and listening often leads a discussion to its most important destination.

“A lot of the time what you need to do is just ask youth what they feel they need,” she said. “What do you need to be successful? What can I do to support you?”

Simple questions often prompt simple but important answers.

“Sometimes fear of vaccine really is just fear of the needle,” she said. “Some of the things I like to talk about are, the needle doesn’t go that deep, it’s not a very big needle. I show it to them, and we talk about that.”

Kids often have questions about the process.

“We also talk about how fast the vaccine is administered,” she said. “Sometimes that helps.” 

Anxiety creates a barrier for many, and Kleinman says it can help to prepare for that as well.

“If a youth is really struggling and planning to go to a certain vaccination site,” she said, “I encourage them to find a staff member that’s there, someone they can talk to who will help.”

Whatever the issue, Kleinman says most often it can be resolved through listening and conversation.

“The youth I serve are very vocal about why it’s important to get vaccinated,” she said. “They know it’s important. It’s exciting. It’s just a matter of helping them navigate the system and listening their concerns.”

Find your dose.

Find your vaccination today at Everyone 12 and older is eligible. You can register online or drop in at any clinic and get vaccinated without an appointment.

If you need a ride to an appointment or can’t easily leave your home, we can help! Call us at (253) 649-1412, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 7 days a week.

Your role to stop the spread of COVID-19 remains critical.