NEW YORK — With about 25% of adults in the tri-state area unvaccinated and delta spreading, outreach efforts are becoming more aggressive.
PIX11 News’ Henry Rosoff spent an eye-opening few hours with vaccination outreach workers to learn more about the unvaccinated population.
Jennifer Diaz led a group of New York Immigration Coalition workers around Jamaica, Queens, handing out masks and vaccine information.
“Alright, we can get started,” declared Diaz, toting large bags of masks and vaccine literature.
Right away it was apparent her task was an uphill battle in a neighborhood where the vaccination rate is around 40%.
A Spanish speaking fruit stand vendor told Diaz she was unvaccinated.
“She said ‘I haven’t really decided yet, but I know it’s good … I don’t really have any questions,’” Diaz said after the interaction.
Diaz is friendly, and avoids harsh pushback against many of the conspiracy theories and falsehoods she hears throughout the day.
Inside one resultant, she offered vaccine information.
“No, all I know is I’m not getting it,” said a food counter worker with strong opinions about the way the vaccine is being offered to the public. “They’re bribing people to take it, and it’s not exactly about COVID anymore.”
The worker was referencing the steady stream of incentives government officials and private companies have offered since the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in December 2020. Recently, local and federal leadership endorsed a $100 vaccine incentive.
When asked whether there’s even a chance of convincing someone with these views on the vaccine, Diaz said it’s more important to ensure they have the right information.
“I think you provide them the information and try, but at the end of the day it’s to each their own,” she said.
Diaz was also unsure if the wave of vaccine mandates sweeping the country would make an impact.
“It’s too soon to tell,” she said.
This type of outreach by community based organizations has been going on for the last few months. There are still about 3.4 million unvaccinated New Yorkers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo aims to supercharge the effort with more state funding. Both the governor and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have, at times, expressed downright frustration that more people don’t want the vaccine as COVID cases rise once again.
“Vaccination is the thing to do, and it’s what is going to make our recovery possible,” de Blasio said last week upon mandating the vaccine or a strict testing requirement for all city workers.
State health officials said the vaccine has proven 99.85% effective in preventing infection. That number is higher than in most places, but the message is clear: vaccines are still extremely effective at preventing people from getting sick, and when the vaccinated do get sick they are far less likely to be hospitalized.
COVID is now overwhelmingly spreading among — and killing — the unvaccinated.
The unvaccinated population spans every creed and color, but tends to be younger. There are distinct pockets across the tri-state area.
There are around 40% vaccination rates such places as Greenvale in Nassau County, Long Island and East Orange in North Jersey. A map of New York City shows low vaccination rates dot the five boroughs.
At Halpern Pharmacy in Manhattan, pharmacist Joe Sidney thought the sign about the delta variant would drive people through the door.
It has not: He’s only given five shots in the last week.
Most days he hears excuses from the unvaccinated: “‘I’m not ready for it because it’s not officially approved by the FDA,’” Sidney said as an example of what he’s heard. “‘If you have to offer money for people to take it, it’s not trustworthy.’”
Back in Jamaica, Queens it wasn’t all doom and gloom.
“You got it already, that’s great, that’s awesome,” Diaz exclaimed while interacting with a worker in a clothing store. The other employee in the store was unvaccinated but plans to get the shot within days.
Diaz said she feels the key is to keep coming back to neighborhoods like Jamaica.
“Maybe one week they’re hesitant, and now we give them some information and now they’re vaccinated,” She said. “Now they can go tell their friends, ‘hey I got vaccinated, it’s not so bad.”