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Capital Region Officials Tout Vaccinations To Expedite Return To Normalcy

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy speaks during a COVID briefing, May 17, 2021.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy speaks during a COVID briefing, May 17, 2021.

With hospitalization rates sharply down and statistics showing COVID-19 on the wane, local officials continue to stress the importance of vaccinations.
Hospitalizations from COVID continue to decline, but "herd immunity" remains far off.  Mayor Patrick Madden says in Troy, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.

"We've done a lot of outreach in terms of promoting the vaccine availability and the venues where it can be obtained. I think the county did an excellent job in distributing the vaccine in the Hudson Valley campus, to now more widely available in supermarkets, the pharmacies and supermarkets and, and freestanding pharmacies. So there doesn't seem to be any issue with its availability, we still push the messaging. I don't know that we have data that indicates how many people in Troy, have received it. But just in casual conversation with people, I would say most of the people, the overwhelming majority of people that I've spoken to have indicated that they've gotten it.”

The Democrat is concerned about the threat of COVID variants.

"I do encourage people to get the vaccine. It's not, it's not just about protecting you, it's about protecting other people in that community. And it's also about getting to the point where our businesses can open again, and we can resume some degree of normalcy, or what we remember normalcy to be. So it's important just to continue to put that message out there. And we're continuing to do that."

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, also a Democrat, is urging residents to get the shot too.

"My position has been to encourage people to get the vaccine. There's a lot of disinformation that is in social media today. Some of it's driven by politics. The underlying science supports the use of the vaccine, and you're seeing it where it is being taken seriously, a dramatic drop in the virus. And so we want to continue that. Schenectady has been very good and again, our partners with the county are leading that in. I would encourage everyone if you have not gotten the vaccine yet, to by all means do it."

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in April about 13 percent of Americans said they will "definitely not" get a vaccine, a number that has remained constant since January. Another hurdle has been getting shots in the arms of people who fall into the "hard-to-reach" category, those who live in rural areas or lead secluded lives in cities and suburbs. That includes the homeless population, which Albany County has addressed via its "Mobile Vaccination Squad" that has held pop-up clinics in places like City Mission and has traveled to vaccinate homebound seniors and others in isolated rural locations. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy says a return to normal is on the horizon.

"Albany County now has administered 64,400 vaccines to date, which is a huge accomplishment. So thank you, to everyone involved with that. We know the vaccine hesitation continues to be an issue. We need people to roll up their sleeves, we need them to do the right thing. We've been trying to reinvent how we give the vaccine out, how we've been delivering it. And again, I challenge everyone out there not just in Albany County, that million people in the Capital Region. If you have a good way of getting this out there, especially now to the younger age group 12 to 18, please, by all means, let us know, email us be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I know I say that all time. But we're continuing to get through this working together."

According to Kaiser, some parents have reservations about immediately sending children off to get shots, despite a push by government officials. Kaiser's numbers show three in 10 parents of children ages 12-15 say they will get their child vaccinated as soon as a vaccine is available, one quarter say they will wait a while to see how the vaccine is working, 18% plan to get their child vaccinated if their school requires it, and nearly a quarter say they will definitely not get their child vaccinated. For her part, Albany County Health Commissioner Dr. Elizabeth Whalen says local officials are waiting for word from the state about reopening.

"COVID has changed our thoughts about how we protect ourselves. And I think a mask is a very effective mechanism against protection of many viruses, not just COVID. So we ask you to wait until we get guidance from the state health department. We are looking forward to that this week. We want to be able to inform people and we want to be able to protect people. So continue to, we appreciate continued collaboration, cooperation and working with us to get us across the finish line. We're getting there. But we need to ensure we don't make any backwards slides at this time."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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