BUFFALO, N.Y. — New York State held a one-day clinic on Monday, offering 250 COVID-19 vaccinations to the congregation of St. John Baptist Church near the Buffalo Medical Campus.
“We’re talking about populations that have a much higher death rate and higher rate of contracting the virus and having serious consequences and ending up in the hospital," said New York Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul who visited the site, in explaining why the state decided to conduct the special clinic amid what it calls a shortage of the vaccine.
Hochul called the distribution of vaccines to the church’s largely Black and elderly worshipers “an important investment of available vaccines” in order to “build confidence in these communities."
Hochul was referring to communities of color, which she insisted are distrustful of public health efforts, including vaccines, due to sins of the past.
In a Siena poll of 804 registered voters in New York conducted January 10-13 36% of respondents who identified as African American/Black said they did not plan to be vaccinated. The number was 39% among those identifying as Latinos, and 24% among White respondents.
However, when asked if there was a reluctance by members of the congregation to get the vaccine, Executive Director of Community Health Center of Buffalo Lavonne Ansari, who was assisting at the clinic replied, “no.”
“As an African American I can tell you that we’re trying to do some myth busting,” Ansari said. “We’re no different than anyone else in that we want to be educated about the vaccine, and that once we are educated, we can make the decision of whether we want to take the vaccine or not for ourselves.”
Cuomo’s About Face on Vaccine Safety
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a video message to several Black churches across the state over the weekend urging members to be vaccinated.
“We all need to trust the vaccine,” the governor said in his pre-recorded remarks.
That is a different message than he’d been sending throughout the fall and right on through Election Day, when he said New York had to have its own review panel to study the efficacy of the vaccine because he felt the administration of former President Donald J. Trump could not be trusted to roll out an effective vaccine in the short order that it did under Operation Warp Speed.
"The first question is, is the vaccine safe? Frankly I'm not going to trust the federal government’s opinion,” said Cuomo on September 24. “And I wouldn't recommend to New Yorkers based on the federal government's opinion.”
Cuomo made several similar remarks during his news conference in the weeks that followed.
Cuomo’s politicizing the vaccination earned him rebukes from, among others, Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s leading infectious disease experts, who cautioned the governor against disrupting the distribution of the lifesaving vaccine which by then had shown to be 95 percent effective in clinical trials.
Cuomo changed his tune after Trump lost the election to Joe Biden, and his review panel took barely a few hours in December to pronounce that the work of the FDA had spent weeks and months conducting was sufficient.
When asked if Cuomo didn’t bear some responsibility for the skepticism of some to take the vaccine after he spent several months calling its safety into question, Hochul replied that it was President Trump’s fault for having said he’d hoped to have FDA approval for the vaccine prior to the election (which came a few weeks later).
As well, Cuomo continued this theme during his message to the churches on Sunday, stating, “I know there is skepticism about government and about the Trump administration in particular,” even though Trump has left office.
According to Hochul, despite vaccine supply concerns, the state will ensure that 250 people who got vaccinations on Monday will get a needed second dose a few weeks from now.