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It is imperative that Syracuse residents get fully vaccinated to protect the community, healthcare workers and SU, writes our columnist.
As the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus runs rampant throughout the nation, Syracuse University students are being challenged once again to return to campus under strict protocols. Though SU has a high vaccination rate between students and faculty due to the university’s vaccination mandate, it is difficult to ignore vaccination discrepancies between SU and the greater Syracuse community.
Only 76.1% of Onondaga County residents at least 5 years old are fully vaccinated, as of Jan. 30. Given this number and that Onondaga County has a high transmission level, COVID-19 is still a serious threat to many Syracuse residents. SU must do more to facilitate community vaccination, as a greater effort in community outreach during such a difficult and confusing time would have lasting benefits on the health of those residing in Syracuse.
It is imperative that Syracuse residents get fully vaccinated to protect the community, healthcare workers and SU. As cases have risen, Syracuse hospitals have remained overwhelmed. Crouse Hospital, Upstate University Hospital and St. Joseph’s Health Hospital, as well as all others in the central New York region, have halted elective procedures in order to accommodate the surge in cases.
Hospitals are experiencing staff shortages across the country. In some instances, hospitals are requiring healthcare workers to return to work while infected with COVID-19. Though only 7% of New York state hospitals have reported staffing shortages, that number will likely increase as the omicron variant spreads through high transmission areas like Onondaga County. The well being of Syracuse healthcare workers heavily relies on vaccinating the community.
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Additionally, Syracuse’s racial and socioeconomic diversity increase the stakes of receiving the vaccine. As reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation, low income families as well as communities of color are disproportionately at higher risk of serious COVID-19 illness if infected due to underlying health and economic challenges.
“Both historical and current experiences of racism and discrimination contribute to mistrust of the healthcare system among racial and ethnic minority groups. This mistrust may extend to vaccines, vaccination providers, and the institutions that make recommendations for the use of vaccines,” a CDC report stated.
“People with low incomes who work in jobs such as grocery store workers, delivery drivers or home health aides that are defined as essential may put themselves at higher risk of contracting coronavirus than others who are able to shelter in place and follow guidelines for social distancing,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
SU has a responsibility to the community to encourage vaccination and provide vaccine opportunities to those outside of SU with the many resources the university is equipped with. Additionally, SU benefits greatly from the Syracuse community and is responsible for bringing thousands of students to the area — potentially putting the Syracuse community at greater risk — therefore the university must do its part in caring for its community during the pandemic.
SU received a positive response when the university opened free testing opportunities to the public at the beginning of January. Community members utilized the resource and avoided the stress and difficulty of securing appointments, high costs and waiting multiple days for results. Although this resource is not currently available to the general community with the return of students on campus, the university is considering reimplementing it.
In a similar way, SU should provide a mass vaccination opportunity available to all eligible community members. An SU-driven vaccine initiative would strengthen the university’s ties to the community while simultaneously protecting those most vulnerable to the virus. SU’s position as an esteemed university and integral piece of Onondaga County has the power to influence those who are skeptical or wary about the vaccine to take advantage of an accessible vaccination opportunity.
Increasing vaccinations in Syracuse will provide deserved protection to at-risk people, and it will not only protect those most vulnerable, but it will restore vibrance to the city of Syracuse. The vaccine is a necessary component required to combat pandemic life while returning to a healthier and more comfortable daily routine.
Cara Steves is a freshman magazine, news and digital journalism major. Her column appears biweekly. She can be reached at [email protected].
Published on January 30, 2022 at 10:07 pm