Vaccine a tough sell in NYC’s Far Rockaway

The situation in the community of around 67,000 people illustrates the challenges facing health officials in many places as they try to overcome hesitancy fueled by mistrust, misinformation and fear.

NEW YORK (AP) – If there’s one place where people could fear the coronavirus more than a vaccination needle, it’s the Far Rockaway section of Queens: Nearly 460 residents of the seaside neighborhood have died of COVID-19.

That’s one out of every 146 people who live there, making for one of New York City’s highest death rates. And yet, no other place in the city has a lower percentage of vaccinated people.

As of Monday, only 29% of people living in Far Rockaway’s ZIP code, 11691, had received even one vaccine dose, according to data from the New York City Health Department. That compares to a rate of 49% citywide and nationally.

The situation in the community of around 67,000 people illustrates the challenges facing health officials in many places as they try to overcome hesitancy fueled by mistrust, misinformation and fear.

“We have a good amount of people that still don’t want to get vaccinated, for whatever reason,” said Diana Catalan, a health clinic manager involved in the Far Rockaway inoculation effort whose father, a neighborhood resident, died of the virus in February.

Some people want to wait a few months to see how vaccinated friends and family respond to the shots, she said. Some have heard unfounded conspiracy theories that the vaccine is dangerous. Others just feel no urgency, having escaped serious harm so far.

Catalan said she was anxious to get her father a shot at the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center, where she works. But he got the virus before the vaccine became available to people in his age group. He was 62.

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