Dear Amsterdam News,
I am writing to express my concerns about the vaccine mandates being implemented. Before you toss my letter in the trash as the ramblings of some Trumpist anti-vaxxer, I would like to make it clear that I’m in favor of vaccines that have been developed with the use of rigorous safety and effectiveness testing. I swear by the pneumonia vaccine and I’m considering the shingles vaccine. However, the current COVID-19 vaccine strikes me as discriminatory and classist (elitist also comes to mind). For example, the mandate for NYC educators and transit workers has no testing and mask options. I would like to note that despite the possible risk, many educators returned to in-person teaching during the height of the pandemic. They followed the safety protocols recommended by the CDC in order to keep themselves and their students as safe as possible. This was very effective. Unfortunately, many transit workers were not as fortunate because they were not advised to wear masks until after many of them were already infected. We know that masking up along with other safe hygiene practices is effective against this or any other virus. Educators, transit workers, nurses, and many other middle- and low-income employees were designated essential workers and lauded as heroes.
Educators were instrumental in reopening schools to meet the demands of parents who wanted or needed their children enrolled in in-person learning. All of us who were designated as essential workers masked up, put on our brave faces, said a prayer and went out daily: we confronted our unseen nemesis, the COVID-19 virus, in order to provide for our families and to support those in our communities who needed the services we provide. Our willingness to confront the danger presented by COVID-19 in order to support the children, parents, and community members we serve resulted in accolades for many state officials. In NYC, our efforts were especially favorable for Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Fast forward three months, we are now faced with the prospect of losing our livelihood if we do not comply with mandatory vaccinations.
May I point out what has been patently obvious since polio? No vaccine developed since the polio vaccine has led to the eradication or near eradication of a virus. No vaccine eradicates a virus. There is no exception to that fact. The COVID-19 vaccine is no exception to that fact. The COVID-19 vaccine does not eradicate the virus or its variants. It is actually less effective than the pneumonia vaccine which is effective for 5 years. The COVID vaccine is barely effective for 6 months. Everyone I know, myself included, who had and survived COVID-19 also had the pneumonia shot, the flu shot, or both.
We know the efficacy of this vaccine is limited. We also know the efficacy of masking up is just as good. I must therefore ask why are educators and other essential workers in the inner city of NYC being mandated to take the vaccine or lose their livelihood? Why are they not being offered the option to mask up and get tested regularly? Testing and masking up should be an option for those who do not want to be vaccinated at this time. If we could keep students and staff safe during the height of the earlier pandemic by following the CDC protocols, why can’t we do so now, especially since most educators are vaccinated?
Additionally, why is the vaccine mandate without the testing option being implemented primarily in areas of New York (the inner city) where most of the employees impacted are people of color? Why is the mandate not being enforced in predominantly white as well as more affluent sections of the state? Why are educators in Long Island, Westchester, and upstate New York offered a testing and mask option? Moreover, the NYPD and the FDNY have a predominantly white work force and those employees are also offered a testing option. New York state teachers are similarly situated to New York City teachers but New York state teachers are not facing termination if they do not take the shot. This form of inequity has existed in this country for far too long. Employees in the inner city of Los Angeles are facing the similar disparate treatment. There needs to be equity in the dissemination of these mandates. This is most definitely separate but not equal.