President Biden’s newly enforced vaccine mandate states that companies with more than 100 employees will now have to require all workers to be vaccinated or frequently tested. It’s no secret that much of the world is divided when it comes to the topic of to vaccinate or not. As rumors swirl around on both ends, Trenton Journal reached out to Dr. Adela Ames-Lopez, Director of the Department of Health and Human Services in Trenton, to discuss the city’s stance on the topic, their response to the public concern, and how they plan to keep residents safe.
So far, what impact has the Delta variant had in Trenton?
There are no confirmed cases of the Delta or Lambda variants [as of publishing]. Our focus is to continuously educate then vaccinate our residents to ensure protection overall against COVID. If vaccination isn’t a choice for a resident, then we focus on the CDC recommendations of wearing a mask, washing their hands, and watching their distance with others in indoor and outdoor settings.
What ward in Trenton are you trying to outreach the most, because vaccination rates are low?
Out of the four wards, the area of need in the West Ward area. Some are receptive to our educational forums, but only a few are being vaccinated. The age group from 18 to 39 is a population that we are trying to reach and educate about COVID and vaccinations. We are conducting grassroots efforts, such as walking the neighborhoods and having small, yet meaningful dialogue with residents, and providing information for later reading to further educate themselves about COVID, testing, and vaccinations.
How many Trenton residents have been vaccinated?
Approximately 64% of the population has been vaccinated in the City of Trenton. Although our efforts are showing a positive trajectory in vaccinating the residents, we still have more work to do by providing education, testing opportunities, accessible vaccinations, and social support services to protect the health and wellbeing of Trenton residents.
What do you find are some of the challenges people face when getting the vaccine?
Discouraging narratives in media, communities and any other social platform have been a challenge in breaking the barriers of myths vs. fact. We are receptive to the needs of our residents and this is why we are so successful in our homebound efforts. We have vaccinated approximately 518 homebound individuals who are unable to attend vaccine clinics due to immobility, bedbound, immunocompromised systems, and other health concerns. We also provide transportation to and from our clinics if that is the need. We work tirelessly to combat the challenges that our residents may encounter to get vaccinated.
Can you dispel some of those myths and rumors that people have about the COVID vaccine?
I always refer residents to the CDC website or pamphlets that we have with information from CDC that explains the existence of the vaccines, efficacy of the vaccines, and fact sheets surrounding FAQ by the public. We focus on and address scientific facts and evidence-based work and results regarding the vaccines. We do not spend our resources, energy or narrative dispelling every myth or rumor. We are public health educators with a focus on overall societal and community health and wellness.
Many people feel that getting vaccinated is a personal choice. What do you say to those residents?
It is a personal choice, but this is why we educate our residents to change the narrative in how they view the vaccines. One analogy that I have expressed to our residents is to view the vaccine as an umbrella during a rainstorm. This is the overarching protection for your body. However, you may need a raincoat to protect other areas of your body. To avoid having wet feet in a rainstorm, you wear rain boots, [to avoid] wet hands [when] holding the umbrella, then wear gloves as a means of protection. This overall protection for a rainstorm is similar to how you can protect yourself from COVID. If you choose to be in the rain without an umbrella (vaccine), then you have other layers of protection against the rain – gloves (sanitizing of hands), raincoat (mask covering), and rain boots (social distancing).
What’s at stake personally, and for society at large, if people decide not to get vaccinated?
Continuous mutated strains of COVID will become more challenging for vaccines to have a high efficacy rate. This is why we are in need of a booster for Moderna and Pfizer, and circling back to those who have been vaccinated 8 months ago. The target date for boosters will be around September 20, 2021, for city residents. As more people become infectious, the more mutated strains of COVID, which leads to an outbreak of positive cases, more hospitalizations, and the trajectory of the mortality rate, will begin to move in an upward slope.
If someone wanted to get vaccinated in Trenton where should they go?
There are vaccine clinics that are scheduled weekly in the City. The City Department of Health has ongoing Saturday clinics at the Trenton Fire Headquarters, 244 Perry Street, Trenton, NJ from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. No appointment is needed. To find additional vaccine clinics, residents can peruse the following websites: www.trentonnj.org/covid19 or email us at COVIDVAC@Trentonnj.org.
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