Long Island citizens have been persecuted by months of pleading by public health officials and politicians to be vaccinated against COVID-19. They have seen COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations rise in recent weeks amid the spread of the delta variant. And some may lose their jobs if they are not vaccinated.
Yet nearly 350,000 people on the island who are eligible for shots – more than 14% of those 12 and older – are unvaccinated.
What to know
Nearly 350,000 Long Islanders 12 and older who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine remain unvaccinated, data from the State Department of Health shows.
Experts say advice from a trusted person Usually, it is more effective than scientific data to persuade a person who is hesitant to get vaccinated, to get shot, or in persuading a parent to get their child vaccinated.
Appeals to people’s emotions also typically more effective than data, said a public health psychologist. Parents should e.g. Be told that there is a risk of their child dying if they do not receive the vaccine. At least 480 children nationwide have died from COVID-19.
Experts say vaccination mandates have pushed some to be vaccinated. But they said people have different reasons for not getting shot, and persuading other holdouts takes more than the vaccination campaigns aimed at the general public.
“At this point, we definitely need a more targeted approach,” said Martine Hackett, associate professor of health professions at Hofstra University in Hempstead. “We reached who we could with a broader appeal.”
In Nassau County, 69.9% of the entire population is fully vaccinated, state data shows. Suffolk County, where 63.3% of the population is fully vaccinated, is also above the state rate of 61.6%.
Vaccination rates vary widely by age, race, and community.
Across the island, more than 99% of those aged 65 to 74 have been vaccinated, but the number drops to below 78% for those aged 16 to 34 and to 57% for children aged 12 to 15. Richer communities tend to have higher vaccination rates than poorer ones, and black people are less likely to be vaccinated than whites, Latinos, and Asians.
Hackett said renewed efforts should be made to reset communities with lower vaccination rates and use trusted people in those communities to convey the importance of being vaccinated.
Robert Fullilove, associate dean of community and minority affairs at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, said advice from a trusted person is typically more effective than data.
“What we see is that with people who initially hesitated and then decided to go ahead and get vaccinated, someone they trusted had a very important role to play in changing that person’s opinion,” he said.
One obstacle to persuading black residents to be vaccinated is widespread distrust of the government and the medical system, Fullilove said.
“The first thing we do is recognize that people historically have a legitimate reason to have this level of mistrust,” he said.
Then a trusted person – as for some a church pastor – can talk about vaccinations, Fullilove said.
Anyone who is vaccinated can be critical of affecting their family and friends, he said. They can take advantage of trust that has been built up over the years, as well as talk about how they benefited from the vaccine without serious adverse effects. And they can emphasize how vaccination helps protect vulnerable family members and friends.
‘People do not trust numbers, statistics or raw data’
A similar strategy could help persuade parents who are unsure whether to vaccinate their children, he said.
“People do not trust numbers, statistics or raw data. But they trust something they can see and which they have experienced directly: ‘Hey, it’s been a few weeks [after vaccination], and the kid is fine, you are fine, maybe I will be vaccinated and have my child inoculated, said Fullilove, playing the role of a vaccinating parent.
Currently, only children 12 years of age and older can receive COVID-19 vaccines, although Pfizer-BioNTech announced on September 20 that studies show that the vaccine is highly effective and safe in children aged 5 to 11. Pfizer-BioNTech BioNTech said it would apply for federal permission in that age group.
Dr. KC Rondello, an epidemiologist at Adelphi University in Garden City, urged parents to hesitate to vaccinate their children to talk to their pediatricians instead of relying on what they read on social media, which often contains false or misleading information. .
“When they do, they will find that there is almost agreement that in almost all cases the best way to protect your children is through the vaccine,” he said.
One problem is the widespread – but erroneous – perception that children who infect the virus do not become seriously ill from it, he said.
Children are less likely to get severe COVID-19 than older adults, data show. But as of Sept. 16, at least 480 children nationwide had died of COVID-19, and more than 21,000 had been hospitalized, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The admission data includes only 24 states, and the death data does not include five, the academy said.
Speaking ‘to people’s humanity’
Perry Halkitis, a public health psychologist and dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health in New Jersey, said it can be effective to go beyond the numbers and appeal directly to parents’ concern for their children.
“You want to use some emotion and passion: ‘You do not want your child to die,'” he said.
One problem is that doctors and researchers who appear on television or in news feeds on social media often speak in dry, scientific language, he said.
“You have to do it in a way that speaks to human humanity, that speaks on a par with the people you talk to, and not from a place of authority and not in a condescending way, and that uses everyday, simple language so you become accessible to humans, “Halkitis said.
For some people, access and accessibility is an issue, Hackett said. To make it as convenient as possible to be vaccinated, e.g. Through the Nassau County program that brings vaccines to workplaces can increase the vaccination rate, she said.
Rondello said the steady proportion of people who were vaccinated – nearly 200,000 received their first dose statewide within the last week – shows that a combination of people on their own who have been convinced of the benefits of vaccination and are being pressured to do so by current and future vaccine mandates are working.
A state mandate that hospital and nursing home employees be vaccinated or face the possible loss of their jobs takes effect Monday. And the federal mandate that would hit most people – that any U.S. employer with 100 or more employees requires either vaccination or weekly testing – has not even come into force, he noted. That date has not yet been set.
Many may choose the test option first, but some may realize that it is easier to get vaccinated, Rondello said.
“In carrot and stick analogy, carrots only get you that far,” Rondello said. “There are many who believe that we will not get where we need to be unless we start using some sticks. The vaccine mandates fall into this category.”
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