Letter to the editor.
This is a letter to the editor from Tompkins County Legislature candidate Leslie Schill about the vaccine distribution effort.. To submit opinion letters, please review our letters policy here and submit them to Anna Lamb at alamb@ithacavoice.com.

The issue couldn’t be more urgent, and the timing couldn’t be more critical. The global pandemic is the reason I am running for County Legislature on a platform that takes a Public Health first approach.

This week marks one year since we: hustled our children home from schools, started working virtually full time… or lost our jobs, shuttered businesses, began our lives within these four walls, and closed the doors. We learned how much we miss and need teachers, friends, and family. We’ve struggled with bills, food, and childcare. Our mental health has suffered, people have become ill, and some who are dear to us have died.
Summer’s lovely weather was a reprieve with some distanced activities, but not everyone could participate, particularly seniors and folks in communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by this insidious virus. Now the depths of winter forced us all inside again – for months.

New Year 2021 brought vaccines! But the roll-out has been painfully slow, disjointed, and frustrating…yet it is happening and it improves every day, notably with the recent Vaccine Registry. Our County Health Department, Cayuga Health System, doctors, and nurses are leading this effort bravely. It
is a herculean effort, and each shot administered is a hard-won victory.

Approximately 25 percent of Tompkins County residents have received at least their first dose. A good start. But Frank Kruppa, Public Health Department Director, shared that soon we will have more vaccines than we can distribute. Why?

We must acknowledge that some community members are apprehensive about the COVID vaccine, and we must address their very real concerns. We have to find ways to reach out, with good information about the safety and efficacy of the approved vaccines that are being distributed nationwide.
I urge community members: find a friend or neighbor in health care that you trust. Please ask them. And if you’ve had the vaccine, we need to hear your story! I propose that we compile our Vaccine Stories and share them alongside important weekly COVID updates. And I would like our Health Department to post data that reveals how folks are faring after vaccination, across all demographics. We can do this and should!

The pop-up clinic at GIAC, targeted outreach to seniors at Titus Towers and McGraw House, the initiative to vaccinate the homebound – these are innovative solutions that meet people where they are and we need more: mobile clinics, mass vaccination sites, supportive transportation services.
To reach herd immunity, at least 75% of our community needs to be vaccinated. That’s how we protect those who cannot take the vaccine: children, extremely immunocompromised individuals, and people with serious reactions to vaccines. We have a long way to go and only a short time to achieve this goal.

We all want a return to open schools, open businesses, and the chance to enjoy each other’s company, and there are a great many issues that we also need to tackle. To get there, we must take a Public Health first approach and address COVID. Let’s stand up for each other, for our kids, and get vaccinated. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity. The virus will mutate – it already has. It won’t wait.