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Covid brought despair to this neighborhood. So why won’t its residents vaccinate?

1 28 1
12.08.2021

NEW YORK — Diamond Wright says she won’t get the Covid-19 vaccine.

The 33-year-old housing worker lost her grandfather to the virus last year. Her neighbors in New York’s Far Rockaway died at a rate nearly 50 percent higher than the rest of the city during the height of the pandemic. And the Delta variant is raising anew the specters of spring 2020. But none of that has changed her mind.

“Me, personally, I’m not gonna get it,” she said of the vaccine last week. “It’s something new. They came up with it kinda fast.”

She’s not alone.

Wright’s neighborhood, on the eastern edge of the Rockaway Peninsula in Southeast Queens, has the lowest vaccination rate in New York City: As of Friday, almost 39 percent of residents in the 11691 ZIP code have had at least one dose and about 34 percent are fully vaccinated. Citywide, those numbers are about 61 percent and 55 percent, respectively, according to health department data.

As the Delta variant surges across New York and politicians push harder to increase vaccinations, the slow progress in Far Rockaway is illustrative of the challenges public health officials are facing across the nation. Resistance to vaccines isn’t just ideological or geographical — and it isn’t just happening in places that avoided the worst of Covid.

In Far Rockaway, where death seemed inescapable last year as New York become the global center of the outbreak, a shortage of resources is partially to blame. The ZIP code, for example, won’t be included in a new $15 million state program to encourage holdouts to get their shots. But a wariness of official information is also discouraging the mostly Black neighborhood from getting inoculated.

Wright echoed what many others in Far Rockaway and nearby Edgemere told POLITICO in more than a dozen interviews in recent weeks: They don’t believe the vaccine is safe. They cited a range of reasons for their skepticism — from the infamous Tuskegee experiment, to a wait-and-see mentality, to a general distrust of government after centuries of abuse, racism and systemic inequality in health care in New York and around the country.

Wright says she’s not tempted by the city’s new $100 vaccination incentive nor the surfeit of evidence showing the vaccine’s effectiveness; she says she’s too put off after an acquaintance experienced side effects from the shot.

“A lot of people are scared,” Wright said.

Resource problems

Far Rockaway, like many communities of color throughout New York City, suffers from a yawning gap in resources that has come to the fore during the pandemic: it’s served by a........

© Politico


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