NEW YORK - The campaign to get as many New Yorkers vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible has helped prevent tens of thousands of hospitalizations and saved thousands of lives in New York City, according to a study done by epidemiologists at the Yale School of Public Health.
Dr. Alison Galvani, the study's lead author and the director of Yale's Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis, appeared via video at Mayor Bill de Blasio's pandemic briefing on Wednesday to summarize the findings.
"Our analysis demonstrated that the vaccination campaign implemented in New York City has thus far saved over 8,300 lives as well as averted more than 44,000 hospitalizations and a quarter of a million cases," she said. "The success is particularly noteworthy given the emergence of more transmissible variants including the delta variant."
Galvani said the study suggests that vaccinations are reducing the "COVID-19 burden" and are "curbing surges" of infections from more transmissible variants of the virus.
De Blasio said the research points to how important vaccines are to keeping residents healthy and urged New Yorkers who aren't yet vaccinated to think of it "in human terms."
"Think of it in terms of your own family. Think of it as a mom or dad who was still here, a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle who was still there at the family gathering because they got vaccinated in time," the mayor said. "We understand the challenge of the delta variant. We understand that challenge is particularly clear and sharp for unvaccinated people."
Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city's health commissioner, said in a statement that vaccines are "astonishingly effective at protecting" people. At the mayor's Wednesday briefing, he pointed out that from January to June virtually all COVID-19 cases (98.9%), hospitalizations (98.4%)m and deaths (98.9%) involved people who were not fully vaccinated.
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"I think about how much suffering COVID-19 caused in our city over the past year and a half. I think about the grief and the trauma, and the empty chairs around the dinner table," Chokshi said. "The good news is so much of that suffering is now avoidable because of the vaccines. We have evidence to prove it."
He said that thinking about New Yorkers who are still unvaccinated "keeps [him] up at night."
"Now is a particularly dangerous time to be unvaccinated with the more contagious delta variants spreading in our city," Chokshi said. "So, the choice is clear. My message to everyone today if you have been waiting, if you have been on the fence, is to please sign up, to get that shot as soon as possible."
The city's records show that inequities in vaccination rates persist along racial lines and that rates are lagging in certain neighborhoods. De Blasio said the city will "go to the people where they are" and focus on five ways to step up vaccination efforts.
5 Pillars of NYC Vaccination Program
1. Mobile vaccination sites
"This has been extremely effective," de Blasio said. "The vans and the buses, we're going to use those more and more."
2. Door-to-door canvassing
"Literally going to folks who are not yet vaccinated, having the conversation, encouraging them, helping them, answering their questions," he said.
3. In-home vaccination
"We did it first for homebound folks but now we're doing it for anyone who wants vaccination in their own home," the mayor said. "We will bring vaccination to you."
4. Referral bonus for groups
"Nonprofits, houses of worship, community organizations go out, find people who are part of their trusted community, members of their community who listen to them, care about the voices of those local leaders and organizations, bringing them in, getting them vaccinated and getting rewarded financially so the money comes to the community, stays in the community," de Blasio said. "It's a double blessing."
5. Working with doctors
"Particularly pediatricians, to reach their patients systematically in a very organized fashion, reach them, convince them, get them vaccinated," the mayor said.
You do not need an appointment at a vaccination site but you can do so if you prefer. You can find vaccine clinics either online at vaccinefinder.nyc.gov or by calling 877-VAX-4NYC (877-829-4692).