COVID-19 Vaccines — Where is the Leadership?

Photo courtesy of Arthur for Our Community

GUEST OPINION BY ARTHUR SCHWARTZ | January 14, at 2:30am, I got a needle full of the Modena vaccine stuck into my arm.

It wasn’t easy to get that done. As soon as I heard that Governor Cuomo had opened the vaccine to people of 65, I got on the internet trying to make an appointment. For three hours I filled in computer forms put up by different agencies, at least seven in all. Not one had an appointment available—and I looked as far out as June. Then I started calling locations listed on some NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene site—pharmacies, urgent care clinics, hospitals. Not one call got me an appointment.

I was beside myself. Mentally I had been prepared to wait until mid to late February or even March for a shot. But when the age was lowered to 65, I leapt at the opportunity. Like everyone reading this, I have lived in dread of COVID-19 for over 10 months. I am 67. I have had a heart attack. Forget about the difficulties of being a City Council candidate—I have had limited time with my adult children and my 99-year-old mom. Work revolves around my tiny “home office.” But the chance that I might get vaccinated in January had become a bad dream.

Then I read on a neighborhood blog called Nextdoor that the Health Department, at 125 Worth Street, was taking walk-ins. So on January 14th I went at 8 a.m.; I was told “no walk-ins.” I came back at 6 p.m.; “no walk-ins.” I shared my experience on the blog, and was advised to try again at 2 a.m. I did, and I walked right in! Four nurses were sitting without people to vaccinate. I got it, I got no reaction, and shot 2 is scheduled for February 11—my birthday!

But I am angry.

We have no political leadership on this life-and-death issue. We are getting used to death and disease, but COVID is still a killer which can be wiped out. But plans should have been made, and mobilization unfolded, which haven’t been.

  • Corey Johnson, our City Council Member, says he is “depressed.” So he is off attending classes at Columbia and has said nothing about the vaccine. OUR City Council Member should have been organizing vaccination points all over the district—in empty stores or at schools which no one is going to. OUR City Council Member—and his staff—should have been screaming loudly for you and me. And you know who else Cory forgot? Seniors who are housebound, or maybe not so savvy with roundabout website signups. People with disabilities who may not be 65, but who are immuno-suppressed (like folks with HIV/AIDS), or who have serious diabetes, kidney disease, or heart or lung disease aren’t being addressed. Why isn’t he looking out for these people? Oh yes, he is having a webinar this coming week…
  • And our Mayor? The Citywide effort should have been gigantic. He could have vaccinated 2000 emergency medical personnel in December and then deployed them everywhere in January. Everywhere means hundreds of sites, with lots of sites open to walk-in, like when you get a flu shot.
  • Our Governor? He gets a “D” on the rollout. He changes the rules every day. He had months to set up a massive rollout statewide. But he now seems lost. On January 15, 2021 he admitted that his plan to vaccinate New Yorkers was failing. Doses of the vaccine had been sitting in the freezer for weeks, with some tossed out altogether, due to overly restrictive rules about who was eligible to be vaccinated, and harsh punishments for medical providers who vaccinated an ineligible person.

What are the numbers? As of January 21st, the State (according to the City Health Department) had received 1,004,675 doses. But only 539,618 had been administered as first or second doses. Of that, 119,150 have been set aside for the federal program under which CVS and Walgreens are vaccinating residents and staff at long-term care facilities. Another 25,350 are for NYS-run vaccination sites like the one at the Javits Convention Center. That leaves us 320,557. As of the 21st, 232,485 doses were being saved for second doses. That left 88,000 doses; with the City expected to administer 30,000 per day, the Mayor had the City cancel thousands of appointments.

THIS IS RIDICULOUS!

Even with stepped-up delivery from the Biden Administration, the City and State’s system of distribution shows no sign of being able to keep us safe. And for my neighbors under 65, that means months of angst—hoping to get vaccinated, not knowing when, hoping to not catch the new “variant.”

If I were your City Council Member, I would be out there every day—yelling, organizing, setting up sites—and fighting to expand availability, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nothing could be more important!

*Arthur Schwartz is the Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village and a candidate for City Council from District 3–Greenwich Village, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen.

 

NOTE: On Feb. 4, Chelsea Community News was contacted by a mental health professional, after which we agreed it was important to acknowledge that Schwartz’s use of quotes (“depressed”) while referencing NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s public declaration of his depression cold be interpreted as questioning its debilitating effects, or even the diagnosis itself—which Speaker Johnson has described as a medical diagnosis.

 

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