New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for state-sponsored arm-twisting aimed at getting the state’s unvaxxed to roll up their sleeves, even as the Empire State boasts high Covid vaccination rates among high-risk age groups.

The governor announced on Monday that the state would give a total of $15 million to six New York community organizations to carry out localized information campaigns targeting zip codes where vaccination rates are the lowest. Approximately 75% of adults in New York state have received at least one Covid shot, while 68% are fully vaccinated. 

New York is facing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and more must be done to persuade unjabbed adults in the state – around 3.5 million people – to get the shot, Cuomo said. 

[W]e have to get in those communities, and we have to knock on those doors, and we have to convince people, and put them in a car and drive them and get that vaccine in their arm. That is the mission.

The outreach will involve “one-on-one” conversations with those who haven’t been vaccinated, Cuomo said.

The governor claimed that the more-transmissible Delta variant will endanger the lives of anyone who doesn’t get vaccinated. “We’re going to lose lives and it will be disruptive – and we cannot let that happen,” he said, predicting what would happen if the state doesn’t ramp up its vaccine uptake. 

The initiative coincides with a new policy announced by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, which will require all city employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or undergo weekly tests.

NY Gov. Cuomo: “We have to knock on those doors, and we have to convince people, put them in cars & drive them and get that vaccine in their arm. That is the mission.”

Despite Cuomo’s grave warnings, New York has reasons to be optimistic about its chances against Delta or any other Covid-19 strain. Covid-19 hospitalizations are at near-record lows. According to the most recent official data, the state has 546 Covid-19 hospitalizations, as well as 123 ICU patients being treated for the disease. To put these numbers in perspective, at the peak of the first Covid-19 outbreak in April 2020, New York had nearly 19,000 Covid-related hospitalizations, with more than 5,000 coronavirus patients in ICUs. 

The state’s vaccination rate is also impressive, especially among high-risk age groups. New York has recorded 43,059 deaths since the start of the health crisis, with around 69% of fatalities occurring in people aged 70 or older. Currently, 90% of New Yorkers aged 65-74 have received at least one Covid vaccine dose, while nearly 81% of those aged 75 or older have gotten at least one shot. 

The age groups that have seen the lowest vaccination rates – those between the ages of 12-44 – account for 4.5% of the state’s total Covid-related deaths. 

Local and federal governments across the globe have begun to resort to open coercion to increase vaccination rates among their populations. The forceful health policies have often been justified by pointing to the threat posed by the Delta variant. However, there is no conclusive evidence that this strain of Covid-19 is unusually lethal. 

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, noted last month that it would be wrong to assume Delta is more deadly. 

“We need more information to determine: is it really the variant itself or is it a combination of factors?” Van Kerkhove said. About a week earlier, the same WHO official said that “we don’t have an indication of increase in mortality from the Delta variant.”

Mandatory vaccination policies and the introduction of health passes required to carry out many daily activities have led to mass protests across Europe. In Australia, tough new lockdown restrictions sparked protests over the weekend that led to brawls with police. 

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