By Amy E. Loeb, EdD, MBA, RN, executive director at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead
The vaccine rollout throughout New York, and especially Long Island, has been a success. Nearly two-thirds of the state’s population and 75 percent of those over 18 have received at least one dose. Suffolk County’s numbers are on par with the state’s average.
Unfortunately, the news here is worse, and it’s extremely worrisome. Only slightly more than half of Riverhead and Calverton residents have been fully vaccinated, according to the most recent data released by the state. The percentages are even lower, just above 40 percent, in Mastic and Shirley, both important regions to the Peconic Bay Medical Center family.
The vaccination rates deeply lower our odds to control, and in time, defeat the COVID-19 virus. This puts health care workers, teachers, students, and families of students at high risk. This must change, and with schools scheduled to return in about a month, it has to change now.
Last year during the height of the pandemic when we had more than 100 COVID-19 patients at one time, I remember the sadness of dealing with shocked and scared patients and family members. Visitors couldn’t come in and see dying, or very sick loved ones. We, as a hospital, as a community, came together and fought the greatest health care crisis in our lives - and did it without a cure.
Then, thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, we were handed effective vaccines in record time.
An overwhelming majority of our physicians, who have spent their lives looking at research, biology and pathology, have been vaccinated.
That should tell everyone in our community that the vaccine is safe.
Instead, here we are, having tied a vaccine solution to mistrust and politics. It’s madness.
I’ll share an analogy that drives home the situation: When a driver comes to a red light, he or she stops, not only because it’s the law, but because it’s the safe thing to do. It’s safe for the driver, and for all the others who are cleared to go through the green light.
The people refusing to take a vaccine are somewhat like the driver who runs the red light. They’re putting everyone at risk.
At Peconic Bay Medical Center, we will continue to educate the community and be available for anyone who wants to get vaccinated. We will continue to work with school districts, nonprofits and faith-based organizations to get in front of as many people as possible.
Along with all of Northwell Health, we will continue to set up PODS in our communities with low vaccination rates and talk about the importance of trusting science.
We must fight until the message gets through, vaccination rates rise, and this nightmare is behind us.
The alternative would be too much for our community to bear.
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