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Just a year ago Hell’s Kitchen locals hung out of apartment windows at 7pm, clattering pans and thanking front-line workers. As New York returns to “normal” — driven by our mayor, our governor and the CDC — we are being encouraged by a local ER doctor not to forget the challenges those workers and their families face as lifelong experiences lead to vaccine hesitancy.
This weekend we reported that at least 97% of our adult readers were fully vaccinated — while the New York Times said that “only 30 percent of Black adults and 37 percent of Latino adults in New York have received at least one dose.”
Dr Vino Palli from MiDoctor Urgent Care on 9th Avenue shared his neighborhood experiences, and his fight for over a year as an ER doctor, saying: “There is vaccine hesitancy. It’s not the fault of the black, brown and Latino New Yorkers. The way the healthcare system has treated them, they are entitled to be hesitant and doubtful.”
In recent weeks, he has convinced local coffee shop workers to come in for vaccination — and on the front line in his ER, successfully pleaded with a mother to lead her family to get vaccinated — but only after her 21-year-old daughter was intubated and put on a ventilator.
“First, it took a while to convince the mother that her daughter would die if she was not intubated and put on a ventilator. This is just two weeks ago,” he explained. “These episodes could have easily been prevented. One thing the mother said that really struck me was ‘Dr Palli, nobody really told us that this vaccine could have prevented all these things for my daughter.’ None of her family was vaccinated. Thankfully they are now.”
This weekend, we spoke to the President of Manhattan Plaza Tenant Association Aleta LaFargue. She got her second Pfizer vaccine at the Javits Center in mid-March. At the end of April, she felt “a little fuzzy in my chest, feeling like I might be getting a cold. I was coughing a little.” By the next morning she had a splitting headache, then a temperature of 102F, followed by chills. “The headache was the most awful part — and then four days in I lost my sense of taste and smell.”
Aleta tested positive for COVID. Her son and mother, her two closest contacts, got tested but were negative. Medics told her that without the vaccine, her infection could have been a lot more serious.
While not knowing all the details of Aleta’s case, Dr Palli said that vaccination will protect those who still get COVID from “severe disease, hospitalization, going on ventilation and dying.” He told us that with any vaccine ‘there’s still some potential for getting the virus, but the fact she was not hospitalized is exactly what the vaccine is supposed to do.”
Dr Pali pleaded for people who are vaccinated to be empathetic and patient with front line workers who have not got vaccinated yet. “Because of their historical interactions with the healthcare system that were not positive, it’s going to take certain minority people time to get vaccinated. You can’t blame them and say, ‘it’s up to you. We’re going to take off the mask now that we are vaccinated, we are all happy.’ I think that’s very unfair to these people. It’s going to create more problems. I think that if we have a little bit more empathy and patience we will slowly get all these people vaccinated.”
MiDoctor continues to lead the charge in Hell’s Kitchen on fighting the pandemic. They were the first Urgent Care in the city to offer COVID-19 tests and then initiated vaccination in the area (having currently administered over 10,000 doses). On Friday, they will start to administer vaccinations to children 12+ at the clinic — again a first for an Urgent Care facility in the city.
Meanwhile, Dr Vino is thinking about where else he can help. “India is going through a very bad phase right now. Their surge is unimaginable. They’re overwhelmed — it’s just gut-wrenching, it’s heartbreaking to see,” he shared. “As American Indians, we are always worried about our family back there. I’m planning to see if I can take a team of medics to India. America is my country and I have served it during the pandemic — it’s time to go back to my birth country now to help out when they’re in need.”