By Jennifer L. Warren
No matter what person Aquanetta Wright spoke to recently, one topic continued to surface: the vaccine shots to combat the rampant COVID 19 virus. That in itself was not surprising; startling were some other realities revolving around this banter.
“There were multiple stories circulating around the whole availability of the vaccine and where to go, and there were just no clear, timely, and most importantly: accurate information,” affirmed Wright, best known as the beloved, community-focused organizer, The Ferry Godmother. “It left everyone really confused, and that’s not something I wanted to see happen about something so important.”
Just as she has done so many times in the past, the Ferry Godmother created some much needed magic for her beloved Newburgh community. With ties to Senator James Skoufis, a pivotal player in the know of New York’s vaccination process, Wright wasted no time and decided to contact her friend, asking him if he would join her on a ZOOM platform with her “Ferry Family.” Skoufis immediately assented, and Wright soon after generated general topics and compiled lists of questions from selected guests. The result was a well-attended, very lively and informative one hour virtual, concise and accurate delivery of vaccine information, directly from a reliable, local political source.
The guest of the hour, Skoufis, who was delayed due to a meeting that had just surfaced on the very vaccine topic at the originally scheduled time, had just been briefed on its latest updates. When he first met with the Ferry Godmother’s Family, he was direct and candid about the not so ideal status of affairs.
“The vaccine rollout has left much to be desired; it’s really not about blame right now, but getting it all right,” said Skoufis. “It’s been confusing and just plain unacceptable; we knew this moment was coming, so the State bares some responsibility.”
Skoufis continued by pointing out the principle issue: not enough shots, adding that an increased number of people would become eligible on February 15, making rectifying things even more pressing. He also discussed the need to be vigilant about detecting vaccine scams. Although the Senator pointed to the CDC’s decision to drop the eligible age from 75 to 65 for the vaccines as a “misstep,” especially in light of a limited, unpredictable vaccine supply, he did point to some promising news, revealing that the Federal Government will be upping the delivery by 21%, a figure he expects to continue to rise. He further discussed the startup of vaccination spots at CVS and Walgreens last week as another promising sign toward eradicating this virus.
“This vaccine is very safe; people need to have faith in science,” said Skoufis, who himself endured a challenging bout with COVID back in the summer. “Even if we are young and healthy, we still want to get the shot because the virus is really terrible, and if you can avoid it, avoid it.”
Following Skoufis’ briefing to guests about the latest status of the virus, the Ferry Godmother led a question and answer session, where guests had access to participate via the chat box. Topics included such areas as; getting tested for COVID, the different types of vaccines, who exactly distributes the vaccines, when herd immunity could become a reality, risks of travel, threat of multiple variants, chances of getting sick from and liability of the vaccine, pop-up sites (including the chaotic recent one at Newburgh’s Armory and ways to improve upon it), as well as community actions being taken to address people’s (including some nurses’) skepticism about taking the vaccine.
“In a community like Newburgh, we need to do a lot of education about the vaccine,” explained Skoufis, who indicated a task force was in motion to this end. “We need an educational campaign on this issue; we all need to do whatever we can to convince people this vaccine is safe, and it’s the only way to get out of this Pandemic.”
Skoufis then concluded by informing guests of ways to sign up for shots through such venues as state and county websites, emphasizing, “Communication is key,” in this lofty, integral process.
In all, the evening proved to be a great success on multiple levels.
“I was happy with the outcome,” said a very pleased Ferry Godmother. “Skoufis had a lot of information to share with us, and all who attended were very thankful I was able to put this together as well as for the Senator’s expertise; we definitely want to invite him back in the future for similar types of shows, keeping us updated and informed.”