Nassau County Executive Laura Curran recently announced a public awareness campaign to promote confidence and build preparedness in Nassau County for COVID-19 vaccines, which could begin reaching residents this week. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert has said COVID-19 will continue to disrupt our everyday lives unless an overwhelming majority of people take the vaccine. However, polls show as many as half of Americans have reservations about getting vaccinated.
This past Friday, the FDA gave an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine. Over the weekend, each state received a shipment of the vaccine with New York receiving 170,000 doses, which is reserved for front line workers and nursing home residents who can be vaccinated starting this week. Long Island is set to receive 26,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. If Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is given an EUA another 360,000 doses of the vaccine will be sent to New York.
“Medical experts are predicting that the numbers [of infections] will get higher as winter continues,” Curran said. “Until we do have that vaccine, I urge residents to stick with those common sense precautions that we know work. We’ve heard it a million times—the mask, washing of the hands and social distancing. If everyone did that throughout this holiday season, we would see those numbers go down.”
In order for life to get back to normal, medical experts have estimated that 75 to 85 percent of the public need to take the vaccine. Dr. Fauci said that when that number is reached, a community has an umbrella of protection where community spread will be very low, and urged the importance of getting vaccinated. However, lots of people are hesitant to take the vaccine in fear that it was rushed and unsafe. Curran said she understands people’s hesitancy.
“Everybody wants to know about the vaccines,” she said. “We have the best collection of hospital systems in the country in Nassau. I’ve been speaking to hospital executives, to our partners at the state and county executives all over the state to begin to sort out ways to safely receive, store and distribute this vaccine to our residents. Trust me, there is a lot to sort out. The distribution of this vaccine will be a historic undertaking. Some have likened it to be unlike anything we’ve achieved since World War II.”
In response, the county is launching the “We Can Do It, Nassau” campaign, a public awareness campaign promoting confidence in the United States vaccine effort, emphasizing themes of unity and patriotism, and the importance of vaccines to ensure schools return to normal and a strong economic recovery for the county.
The campaign is a tribute to Rosie The Riveter, the cultural icon representing women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II. During the war, defense workers turned out hundreds of military aircrafts a month for Grumman in Bethpage and Republic Aviation in Farmingdale. The county’s campaign seeks to remind the public of the extraordinary challenges Americans and Long Islanders have overcome in the past, and inspire residents to likewise step up for their country.
The “We Can Do It, Nassau” campaign will use multimedia and multilingual communication to promote public confidence in the vaccine; gather and disseminate testimonials from healthcare workers, first responders, veterans, religious leaders and the general public about why they’re getting vaccinated against COVID-19; directly engage communities of color, who’ve been hardest hit by the pandemic, in order to ensure confidence in an equitable process and address potential lack of trust in vaccination; encourage residents—including schools and businesses—to support the vaccine effort by using the hashtag #WeCanDoItNassau and posting their own version of the Rosie the Riveter pose upon taking the vaccine.
Curran said the county has to remain adaptable and nimble, saying the campaign will respond in reaction to circumstances.
“As facts evolve and change, we’ll do what we’ve been doing,” she said. “We’ll be keeping the press and public abreast of the changes and the evolution. We’ll work to dispel false rumors. We know we live in an age where there are a lot of interesting ideas out there. We’ll work very hard to win the trust of the public.”
On a national level, three former presidents—Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Barack Obama as well as President-elect Joe Biden— have said they would take the vaccine on camera in order to gain the public’s trust and confidence that the vaccine is safe. Curran said she would do the same.
“I got my flu shot done in public to encourage that, so I would be ready when the time is right to roll up my sleeve and get it done,” she said.
And when it comes to children, who like everyone else are susceptible of contracting COVID-19 and might need to get vaccinated too, County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein said the overwhelming majority of children do well with the virus.
“We’ve heard about the inflammatory response syndrome that we’ve seen in a very small percentage of children,” he explained. “It’s not unusual for viruses to have an immune or inflammatory response—it’s not a totally shocking development. In order for a vaccine to be approved, it has to be indicated in a certain group. The good news is we’re hearing a lot about the first two vaccines—both of them require two shots. Not too far behind, other products will come indicated for children, there will be products with one shot down the road and parents should take precautions and protect their children. People who are at risk need to be vaccinated first.”
Dr. Eisenstein said that he doesn’t think it’s going to be that long before the county’s able to vaccinate everybody who wants to get vaccinated.
“Taking the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t just vital for public health, it’s the patriotic thing to do,” Curran said. “Nassau County is mobilizing to ensure a safe and efficient vaccination process for Nassau residents. However, we must first build confidence in the vaccine so we can definitively win this war, get our lives back and get our economy roaring. We’re in the fight of our lives, but let’s remember: we’ve been here before. When we unite as Americans, there’s no challenge we can’t overcome.”