COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is real, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh told InsiderNJ this afternoon, following a press conference earlier today where Sayegh presented himself as Exhibit A for why residents of his city should not fear receiving the vaccine.
Specifically, members of Paterson’s sprawling and diverse Muslim community have expressed resistance. The mayor said the FDA’s and CDC’s initial recommendation to halt the Johnson and Johnson exacerbated people’s concerns.
The resumption of Johnson and Johnson vaccines – in addition to the city wanting to give residents the convenience of a single shot – prompted Sayegh today to try to encourage people, especially Muslims, to receive the vaccine near them.
“I’m using myself as an example,” he said. “It’s been four weeks [since receiving a Johnson and Johnson shot] and I feel fine.”
The mayor said he also believes the language barrier is a factor.
For over four months, the city saw population lag at a local high school.
“We decided that if our numbers are not coming up, and they’re not going to come with us, then we’ll go to them,” Sayegh said.
Today, he initiated what he describes as pop-up vaccination sites at Muslim houses of worship, within subsets of Paterson’s Muslim population, including Arab, Bangladeshi, and Turkish.
“They’re pop-up pod points of dispensary,” said the mayor. “We’re telling them ‘one visit, one vaccination.'”
The African American community in Paterson – as elsewhere – has expressed reservations about the vaccine.
But “We’ve seen our African American numbers increase,” the mayor said. “At a Baptist church a couple weeks ago, in one day we used Johnson and Johnson and we vaccinated 1,000 people.”
Also today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced gangs take downs in Paterson.
“Paterson is a destination for drugs and we are sending a strong message; we thank them [law enforcement] for standing with us and taking down these gang members ,” the mayor said. “We took a step in the right direction.”
Finally, in response to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office taking over the internal affairs division of the Paterson Police Department after the feds charged two Paterson cops with beating a youth and filing a false report, Sayegh said, “I welcome the prosecutor. I’ve always wanted increasing accountability and transparency.”
That’s why he backed body cameras for police officers, a full department audit of practices protocols and procedures, and why he testified in Trenton in favor of a Civilian Review Board.
“I want to reassure the public that we take trust very seriously,” the mayor said.
For the FULL InsiderNJ interview with the Mayor of Paterson, please watch the video below: