Despite the latest evidence that vaccinated New Yorkers are rarely contracting COVID-19 infections, some of the unvaccinated seem hellbent on remaining that way.
Just .33% of vaccinated New Yorkers tested positive for the virus, while only .02% were hospitalized because of COVID-19 and .003% died from it, according to a city health department analysis of data from Jan. 17 to Aug. 7 that was released Wednesday.
Some 96.1% of COVID-19 cases recorded during that period struck people who never got their shots or weren’t fully vaccinated. That population also accounted for about 97% of COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations during that nearly seven-month span.
That means people who are unvaccinated have been 13 times more likely to be hospitalized because of an infection than those who are fully vaccinated — and three times more likely to be infected in the first place, Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said at a press briefing Wednesday.
”COVID-19 cases in vaccinated people remain uncommon, but have increased in recent weeks. This is likely due to the more contagious Delta variant, as well as higher levels of community transmission overall,” Chokshi said. “Here’s the common sense, bottom-line: Vaccines keep you alive and out of the hospital.”
The data on COVID infections broken out by vaccinated and unvaccinated people offered an initial, if limited, look at how effective shots have been in preventing infections in the city. The data release came amid growing city and state vaccination mandates, as well as ramped-up efforts to convince more New Yorkers to get their shots.
Still, hundreds gathered outside City Hall Wednesday to protest rules requiring city workers to get a vaccination. The crowd included teachers, sanitation workers, hospital employees and others — all against the mandate and many opposed to the vaccine itself.
Backlash is ‘a Shame’
Patrick Gallahue, spokesperson for the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the department would update the data “regularly” but didn’t specify a timeline, nor what form the figures would take.
The city is providing the information as cumulative figures, not in the real-time updates it gives for other metrics on its COVID dashboard. Nor are the new numbers part of the DOHMH COVID data repository, impeding services like THE CITY’s Coronavirus in NYC tracker from making use of them.
Health department data shows that 57.5% of New Yorkers of all ages are fully vaccinated, and another 6.6% are partially vaccinated. But 36% — including 24% of all adults — have yet to get the jab.
De Blasio administration officials are hoping the additional evidence of the vaccine’s efficacy will convince others to get their shots, as well as snuff out any fears born of misinformation.
They’re also betting that new rules barring unvaccinated patrons and workers from entering indoor businesses like gyms and restaurants will spur more people to get their shots.
There’s some evidence that incentives have helped: Some 100,000 New Yorkers took the city up on its offer of getting paid $100 to get vaccinated at certain sites, de Blasio said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine this week is expected to inspire confidence in some who were hesitant to get their shots.
Gov. Kathy Hochul earlier this week announced a mandate for all school personnel across the state to be vaccinated or tested weekly, and promised more vaccine requirements to come.
This followed a similar but stricter pronouncement by de Blasio, who said his administration is bargaining with the relevant unions to ensure all public school employees have at least one dose of the vaccine by Sept. 27.
Municipal workers and health care workers were already required to be vaccinated or subject to testing. The mayor, however, did not commit to expanding the requirement to other city agencies like the NYPD.
“It really is a shame that we continue to have backlash from those who would be protected from vaccination,” Dr. Scott Ratzan, a lecturer at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy lecturer and director of CONVINCE USA, a national research group to increase vaccine literacy. “It is prudent policy and ethical for employers … to mandate vaccination for [a] safer workplace for themselves and their employees.”
‘My Body, My Choice’
But the protesters in front of City Hall were ready to push back on the policy, which some conceded would likely compel them to get the shot for fear of losing their jobs.
Erin Barra, a 33-year-old special-education teacher from Staten Island, held up a sign that said, “My body, my choice.” She and her entire family, including her young children, became sickened by the virus in the spring, and her mother, a nurse, died of COVID-19 in May.
Yet Barra didn’t want the vaccine and said she would apply for a religious exemption. If denied, she said, she might end up getting a shot.
“I can’t lose my health care for my kids,” she said.
Branden Duncan, a food service worker at Harlem Hospital, was also opposed to any vaccine or a mandate requiring it. As a Buddhist, he hopes to receive a religious exemption, he said.
“If I don’t have this vaccine, it’s going to jeopardize my livelihood,” the 31-year-old Rosedale, Queens, resident said.
Others, though, such as Chelsee Masucci, a 29-year-old deaf-education teacher and sign-language interpreter from Staten Island, said they’d sooner get fired than get the vaccine.
“I’m not anti-vaccine. I don’t believe in mandates,” Masucci said, although she does not plan to get the coronavirus vaccine. “I’ll have them fire me if they have to.”
Winning over people like Masucci to ensure greater vaccination rates will be key to preventing more sickness, hospitalization and death — and the proliferation of more contagious variants, city officials and health experts said.
“The data [is] clear that without vaccination our COVID pandemic will continue to get worse,” Ratzan said.