We’re steadily getting there — herd immunity, when a minimum of 60 to 70 percent of Americans will be vaccinated against Covid-19. As of press time this week, about 34 percent of New Yorkers had been fully vaccinated, a number roughly equal to the national percentage.
That’s good, but not necessarily great. Here’s why: Officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the vaccination rate has slowed in recent weeks, and if the percentage of inoculated Americans continues to drop each week, we may be unable to reach herd immunity by summer’s end.
That would be bad. So much of what we held dear during pre-pandemic times — the ability to work and earning a living, visit family members and friends, take in a ball game or concert — hangs in the balance.
Mercifully, we have seen a major drop in the number of infections across New York state over the past month. That trend, officials said, is due in large part to widespread vaccination of New Yorkers. It also may partly be a function of the slowing spread of the virus as warmer weather sets in. Officials had predicted that winter would bring the highest levels of infection and death, and it certainly did, peaking on Jan. 8, when the U.S. saw 259,564 new Covid-19 cases.
Following that peak, health officials said, we would see a decrease in cases, with summer predicted to bring the lowest levels of infection since the pandemic erupted here in March of last year. Already we have seen the overall infection rate across the state fall below 2 percent, with only the Finger Lakes and western New York seeing rates slightly above that figure.
The infection rates in the Capital Region and Southern Tier have already fallen below 1 percent, with Long Island not far behind, at 1.4 percent.
All of this, of course, is excellent news. But will it lead to vaccine complacency, with unvaccinated New Yorkers falsely believing that the virus is gone for good, leading them to think they don’t need the shot?
To be clear, even if we see the positivity rate drop below 1 percent — as it did last summer — the virus will not be gone unless we reach herd immunity. Unless a substantial majority of the state is vaccinated, we will risk the possibility that the virus will lurk among us and return with a vengeance, as it did this past winter.
So, we are pleading with those who are on the fence about whether to be vaccinated to get the shot. This is truly a matter of life and death for thousands of your fellow citizens. Beyond that, all of our livelihoods depend on our ability to earn a living in a thriving economy. Our economy will not be fully rid of the current governmental constraints until the virus is at last vanquished.
Each of us will play a small but integral part in defeating the coronavirus. Winning the war will depend on whether average New Yorkers cast aside their lingering doubts and political allegiances and get the shot, which is free and accessible to anyone over age 16.
Walk in or schedule an appointment
All New York state mass vaccination sites are now open to eligible New Yorkers ages 16 and over for walk-in vaccinations on a first-come, first-served basis. Walk-in appointments are reserved for first doses only, with second doses to be scheduled automatically after administration of the initial shot. All vaccine providers are encouraged to allow walk-in appointments for those eligible.
People who would prefer to schedule an appointment at a state-run mass vaccination site can do so on the Am I Eligible app or by calling (833) 697-4829. They may also contact their local health department, pharmacy, doctor or hospital to schedule an appointment where vaccines are available, or visit vaccinefinder.org to find information on vaccine appointments near them.
Source: Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
State vaccinations by the numbers
• Total doses administered: 15,643,329
• Doses administered over the previous 24 hours: 93,940
• Doses administered over the previous seven days: 1,208,303
• Percentage of New Yorkers with at least one dose: 46.5
• Percentage of New Yorkers with completed vaccine series: 34.9
Statistics as of Sunday, May 2. Source: New York State Department of Health