Earlier this year, on Feb. 26, I received my first dose of the Moderna vaccine. This was one of the most difficult choices I’ve had to make recently as a father, a husband, and ultimately, for myself.
It was a long struggle to come to this decision. I discussed the issue with my family, going over concerns about the possible risks of side effects. Because of my role as Executive Director of DC 37, there is the constant risk of exposure to COVID-19 as I meet with members at all different agencies. The idea that I could bring this virus home to my family was my biggest concern.
Ultimately, I know I made the right choice. With Kyle Bragg, 32BJ SEIU President, we took the step to get vaccinated publically at an event in Harlem.
This was an important moment in the pandemic that began in March 2020, and continues as we move forward with reopening the city while dealing with public health and economic crises.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, DC 37 members went into action as frontline, essential public workers. Our city faced the most serious health crisis in its history, and we stepped up and faced what was before us with courage and determination.
This virus came upon us suddenly. In early March of last year, we received word of the first reported case of the coronavirus, and just three short weeks later, New York City was shut down. Places of entertainment, restaurants, libraries, museums, non-essential stores, and offices were completely closed.
Yet while the city’s businesses were ground to a halt, the work of our public workforce continued unabated. City agencies remained open and staffed, many with our members. While public transportation continued, service was reduced, making commuting difficult.
Our essential members continued coming to work every day without fail to do the necessary jobs that allow New York City to provide needed services to our city’s citizens.
More than 200 of our own DC 37 family members died from the virus, while thousands of others got sick.
Given that, when the vaccines became available earlier this year and we were given an opportunity to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the virus, we all faced a choice. There were questions about the efficacy of these vaccines and the potential risks involved. Vaccines became an important part of the new world created in early 2020.
DC 37 has engaged in a strong campaign to ensure that our members are vaccinated. This is not an issue only about your safety, but about the safety of your loved ones and those around you. Hopefully you have read the stories of our members we’ve published in the PEP Talk. Our members considered their options and realized the danger to themselves and their loved ones of not taking the vaccine.
As of now, there are several COVID-19 variants in addition to the Delta variant that the city’s Department of Health is tracking as worrisome. If the Alpha, Beta and Gamma variants spread at the rate of Delta, they could cause a possible reinfection of those who had COVID-19 and cause severe illness.
The only way to reduce the risk of these variants is to get vaccinated. The vaccines themselves are safe and effective. Even with the Delta variant factored in, a recent study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the vaccines remain a powerful tool in preventing infection from the virus. If vaccinated people do catch COVID, the vaccines significantly decrease the chance of them ending up on respirators or even being admitted to a hospital at all. And vaccinations will drastically reduce the seriousness of the extent to which someone catches COVID in the first place.
However, even with a moderate reduction in its effectiveness, this does not overcome the benefits of receiving a vaccine. In fact, the existence of these variants makes it all the more important that you must get vaccinated.
The vaccines are our best opportunity to help bring this city back to normal, and as time passes, having some protection from COVID-19 will not only save your life, but the lives of those close to you. Having said that, and while encouraging all members to get vaccinated, I will of course continue to fight to protect those who, for various reasons (medical, religious, etc.), will not choose vaccination.