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OpinionEditorial

Vaccine drive needs a boost

A health care worker administers the COVID-19 vaccine

A health care worker administers the COVID-19 vaccine in New Cassel. Credit: Barry Sloan

A message to all Long Islanders who've been vaccinated:

Your help is needed.

The COVID-19 vaccine supply is starting to outpace demand. Hesitancy has taken hold; according to one poll, two out of three people who haven't been vaccinated say they're unlikely to do so.

It's too soon for that to happen.

If the pace of vaccination on Long Island remains as strong as it has been, 70% of Long Islanders would be vaccinated by June 30, and 90% would be vaccinated by Aug. 6. Imagine what that would mean for the summer we all hope to enjoy.

But that pace is starting to wane. If that continues, we won't come close to the percentages we need to stop the virus and allow us more freedom of movement.

Of particular concern: continued low vaccination rates among nursing home staff. According to state data, at 45 of 77 Long Island nursing homes, less than half the staff is fully vaccinated. One Nassau facility has a staff that is only 20% fully vaccinated. The state is working on getting doses to homes. The bigger problem is that there are local facilities where upward of 50% of staff have declined the shot. That's unacceptable. Family members should be told of the risks the staff poses to their loved ones.

The broader slowdown makes it clear: Long Islanders who've gotten their shots must spread the word. Tell your neighbors, friends and co-workers about your experience. Offer them dinner at your place once they're fully vaccinated. Give them a prod so they understand this is about our communal well-being, about taking action to benefit others.

Those who have influence, soft and strong, should speak up — often. School officials, business leaders, and social media influencers needs to get the word out. Religious leaders of all types of congregations should speak with their members. Doctors should encourage the shot with every eligible patient.

Then there are our political leaders. Recent surveys show increased hesitancy among Republicans and supporters of former President Donald Trump. Rep. Lee Zeldin, whose district has pockets of lower vaccination rates, has been vaccinated. He should use his platform to dispel doubts and encourage constituents to get vaccinated.

Other local elected officials, like State Senators Anthony Palumbo, Alexis Weik and Mario Mattera, won't say whether they've been vaccinated, or won't commit to doing so, even as they demand the region open up more. Being a leader at this moment means getting the vaccine, making that public, and persuading others to follow.

Come Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may restart the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, perhaps with some restrictions. That's good news. Appointments, walk-ins and pop-up opportunities are more available as well. It's easy to get your jab.

More than a million Long Islanders have received at least one shot. If each of us gets just two other local friends to get theirs, we'll secure the reopening we need, and the summer we crave.

— The editorial board

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