NEW YORK (VINnews/Sandy Eller) – Governor Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to boost immunization rates in the state by highlighting zip codes with the lowest number of people vaccinated has had many in the Orthodox Jewish community taking umbrage, noting that the data is skewed, putting them in a bad light.
Speaking at a Monday morning press conference, Cuomo announced that most COVID restrictions would be dialed back when the state reached a 70 percent immunization rate among adults and displayed a chart showing Monsey as the least vaccinated location in the state. The chart ranked Monroe third in New York and Spring Valley fifth, with Far Rockaway and Williamsburg coming in the ninth and tenth spots. Also making the chart at numbers 17 and 18 were Crown Heights and Borough Park, with Marine Park holding the number 25 spot.
But the numbers fail to take into account the unusually high number of children found in the Orthodox Jewish community, particularly in Chasidic neighborhoods, and that those ages 12 and up have only recently been approved for vaccination.
The New York City Department of Health immunization data shows that just 34.63 percent of Borough Park residents have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, but that number jumps to 51.6 percent when looking at data for adults only in the same area.
Similarly, in Far Rockaway, the data shows that just 32.4 percent of the total population has received one dose of the COVID vaccine, a number that climbs to 43.1 percent when looking at the data for adults only.
Speaking at a mayoral press conference on Wednesday, NYC Health + Hospitals president and CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz agreed that the way the numbers were presented was misleading.
“Doing vaccination as a percentage of the population is deceptive in any part of the city where the number of children is much larger,” said Dr. Katz, adding, “We can certainly give that feedback to the state, that focusing on the group that are adults and then separately looking at the younger people for whom there was just a recent approval, makes sense to me.”
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi noted that New York City launched a dedicated vaccination campaign for the Orthodox Jewish community last month, with pop up sites being launched locally in addition to vaccination sites that already exist at community medical centers.
By contrast, New York State has only released vaccination data by county. Despite the implication in Cuomo’s chart that Rockland’s Jewish community isn’t doing its part to vaccinate, a pop-up vaccination site in Spring Valley serving the entire Hudson Valley area, which includes Monsey, Kiryas Joel and Spring Valley, will be open on day only – Saturday, June 12th.
OJPAC founder Yossi Gestetner said that numbers all across New York City show lower immunization rates among younger people, with 70 year olds far more likely to vaccinate than 30 year olds. That problem is further amplified in the Chasidic community where the majority of the population is under 18 and even most adults are under 50.
According to Gestetner, dividing the data into two groups for children – those who are eligible and those who are not – plus two more groups for adults – those who are over 50 and more likely to vaccinate and have access to the vaccine for months, and those who are not – would be a far more accurate method of tracking immunization rates.
“When it comes to public discourse in the age of social media, it is important for data to be accurate to make sure that government resources are properly directed and to cut back the chance that the numbers are not abused by agitators,” Gestetner told VIN News.
But even as Cuomo sets his sights on the next milestone, a 70 percent vaccination rate, a Cleveland Clinic study (https://bit.ly/3wmjEKN) of 52,238 employees showed that those who had COVID-19 received no additional benefits from being vaccinated.
The Akron Beacon Journal (https://bit.ly/2RJQLsQ) reported that not one of the 1,359 unvaccinated study participants who had previously contracted COVID came down with the virus a second time during the five month duration of the study. Still, the study noted that given the limitations of research, it recommended that even those who had COVID be immunized if vaccines are readily available.