PATERSON – The “Vaccination Mayor” was living up to his new name.
“We’re going to continue to vaccinate people,” Mayor Andre Sayegh said today as people lined up and ultimately got shots in their arms to keep them from getting COVID 19.
It was the director of the city’s health office, Dr. “Paul” D. Persaud, who was responsible for Sayegh’s new moniker.
As Patersonians queued for shots at the city’s International High School. Persaud said of Sayegh, “He is the vaccination mayor.”
That designation comes from Paterson’s “all are welcome” approach to administering the vaccine.
An appointment is not needed.
Nor do people necessarily have to live in Paterson.
While Gov. Phil Murphy said later today that he isn’t wild about the “just show up” approach, the city’s thinking is that vaccinating as many people as possible benefits society as a whole.
The city doled out 2,000 doses of the vaccine last week.
This week, it only got 700 doses. Some 400 were reserved today for Paterson residents, but tomorrow, the 300 available doses will go to whoever shows up and meets state vaccine guidelines. The vaccine distribution begins at the high school at 9 a.m.
Persaud said the city has the capability to vaccine 1,000 people a day, but before that happens, more doses are needed.
Sayegh, who was sporting a Biden-Harris face mask, seemed confident the new administration will do a better job than the previous one running the vaccine program.
Still, there are troubling signs under the surface.
Officials said that more than 90 percent of those showing up for the vaccine are Hispanics. Not only are there a limited number of African-Americans showing up to be vaccinated, there are even fewer black men getting the vaccine.
This, of course, is a countrywide problem rooted in the nation’s prejudicial history of vaccinating black men. Sayegh said he understands the problem, but also appreciates the challenge.
“It means there is something we have to do a little extra,” the mayor said.
Health officials admit they can’t force people to get the vaccine. But there is persuasion.
Sayegh was upbeat about lining up a number of celebrities to soon visit Paterson and encourage all people to get vaccinated. He spoke enthusiastically about having city-native Victor Cruz and such fellow athletes as Doc Gooden and Saquon Barkley do precisely that. After all, this is “God’s work,” the mayor said.
There was also a reminder that everything connected to COVID tends to be unpredictable and also a bit dangerous.
Rep. Bill Pascrell was supposed to be on hand today as well. But he’s in quarantine after coming in contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus.