Nassau County health and political officials on Wednesday touted the importance of the coronavirus vaccines as being the bridge back to normalcy as vaccinations continue to become available to more people throughout Long Island.
The Jewish Alliance for Dialogue & Engagement along with the Marion & Aaron Gurial JCC hosted a virtual forum on information surrounding the vaccines for the coronavirus which featured U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Nassau County Health Commissioner Lawrence Eisenstein, Mount Siani South Nassau’s Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Aaron Glatt, and others.
Rice, who has long advocated for bipartisanship when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, said she received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and encouraged the public to listen to the facts from health experts and to not worry about receiving the treatment.
“I didn’t feel comfortable getting the shot, simply because there are many more people that are in far more vulnerable positions than myself, but I always listen to the guidance of the attending physicians and experts,” Rice said.
The first week that the vaccine was rolled out, high-risk health care workers were the initial group to get tested. Now, heading into week four, Eisenstein said virtually all health care providers and people within the health care industry that deal with the public face-to-face will be able to receive the vaccine.
Eisenstein said he is cautiously optimistic that all of the American public will be able to receive the vaccine by “late spring, early summer” and implored the general public that may not be too high on the waitlist to “remain patient”.
“It is a reasonably hopeful target that by June everyone should be able to get vaccinated,” Eisenstein said. “To date, more than 2.5 million Americans, primarily healthcare workers, have received a vaccine. For everyone else, we just ask that you hang in there a little bit longer.”
With just the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available through the Food and Drug Administration in America to date, another key to recovery will be the status of other vaccines throughout the world, health officials said.
On Wednesday, the United Kingdom approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to be used, a big step on the global path to recovery.
Glatt reiterated what prominent health officials throughout the nation have been saying about the vaccine’s benefits and misconceptions, most prominently the claim that the vaccine injects a person with the virus.
While some diseases or viruses require a vaccine to be injected that possesses the virus, these shots for the coronavirus do not have the live or weakened virus present in them.
“There will be people that will develop covid after getting the vaccines because of exposures to the coronavirus,” Glatt said. “We have seen this far too frequently because of the high incidents of the virus in populations in the United States among healthcare workers.”
The vaccine injects people with what is known as messenger RNA, which is something that has zero risk of changing a person’s genetic makeup and cannot integrate into one’s DNA. The messenger RNA creates a product called the spike protein, which then develops antibodies that then fight off the spike proteins, and any other spike proteins that can enter the body, such as the ones found in the coronavirus.
With Northwell Health spearheading the fight against the virus on Long Island, Curran said, the county has been in constant contact with Northwell officials and will be rolling out more initiatives on how they will aid in vaccine distribution on a more local scale next week.
“It’s really important that we get the word out in a very consistent way that the vaccine is the path to normalcy,” Curran said. “We want to keep our kids in schools and we want to make sure our businesses can continue to function. We’re not looking for more restrictions in restaurants and businesses and we want to keep the economy going.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that 140,000 New Yorkers had received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Monday, with another 259,0000 doses expected to be received by the state this week.
High-risk hospital workers, EMS employees, medical examiners, coroners, funeral workers, and staff, and residents of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and Office of Medical Health facilities will be prioritized in obtaining the vaccines, he said.