NEW YORK — Two events, ten miles apart, on Thursday, showed the challenges the city faces as it tries to increase vaccination numbers.
One of the events promoted vaccinations, particularly among people of color. The other was a protest against required vaccinations.
The vaccination promotion was a street party next to Bethany Baptist Church, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, in Brooklyn. It had all of the elements of a neighborhood block party, with a twist. In addition to the DJ pumping dance music, the barbecue, and the bouncy castle for the kids, there was a vaccination room on site.
Rev. Tyrone Pittman, associate pastor of Bethany Baptist, explained the event’s purpose.
“We’re praying and hoping that we can just speak to people’s reservations,” he said, during an appearance on the PIX11 Morning News a few hours before the midday party.
At the event itself, the person whose organization was doing the vaccinations on site spoke about how their approach is designed to carry out Rev. Pittman’s objective.
“You can see it, you can feel it, you can even hold it prior to being vaccinated,” said Johonniuss Chemweno, as he held a vial of vaccine in his hand.
Chemweno, the CEO of VIPStarnetwork, a vaccine administering company, said that he shows the vial to people at gatherings like the block party, in order to dispel any concerns.
“People can see this isn’t going to be harmful to their body,” he continued. “It’s only going to help them.”
However, he was largely preaching to the choir, as it were. Few people at the party hadn’t taken at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
In the vaccination room, it was mostly quiet, with just a few people showing up per hour to get vaccinated.
Terence Snow was one of them. He’d come for his follow-up shot.
“I didn’t feel nothing,” he said, laughing. “When she stuck it in my arm, I didn’t feel a thing.”
On the other side of the city, in Staten Island, there was a contrasting event.
A few dozen people, holding protest signs, gathered outside of Staten Island Borough Hall, where Mayor Bill de Blasio held his daily briefing on Thursday.
The group was demonstrating against the mayor’s requirement that city teachers and school workers be vaccinated with no option to be tested regularly for COVID, and that all other city employees be vaccinated or tested weekly.
Some of the protest’s organizers, such Tony Herbert, the Conservative Party candidate for public advocate, are visibly pro-vaccinations. Some of the other organizers are not. They said they’re definitely against not having a choice regarding being vaccinated.
One participant, Rachel Maniscanco, who said that she is a public school teacher, said that she was protesting the lack of being able to opt out of getting vaccinated.
“I will never take the vaccine,” she said. “I don’t think that my employment should be contingent on sticking something experimental into my body.”
The vaccine was fully approved, through a months-long process, by the FDA.
Even though that’s taken place, the relatively low attendance at the vaccination site at the street party, as well as the anti-vaccination mandate protest both show that challenges lie ahead in the battle against the coronavirus.