At her virtual monthly town hall last Tuesday, which broke the record for most amount of questions submitted, Ocasio-Cortez described her own experience with being vaccinated. The Bronx and Queens lawmaker received her first dose in mid-December and her second dose in January.
“As far as side effects, mine were relatively minimal,” she said.
After her first dose, Ocasio-Cortez said she experienced fatigue and napped a lot the following day. After the second shot, her arm felt sore, but otherwise, she didn’t experience other side effects, she said.
Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, called the vaccine “safe, effective and life-saving.” He noted that large studies of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines found that the vaccines proved to be extremely effective at preventing severe outcomes from COVID-19, including hospitalization, ICU visits and even death.
Preliminary evidence also shows that the vaccine helps curb the transmission of the virus, he said, though that conclusion needs to be “further clarified.”
“The fact that it does save lives and prevent severe illness is the reason I’m endorsing it for my patients and New Yorkers as well,” Chokshi said. “Trust is an essential ingredient turning vaccines into vaccinations.”
Ocasio-Cortez and health officials also spoke about the distribution process and what needs to be improved. The congresswoman said the Trump administration did not do enough work to manage the rollout of the vaccine, but by invoking the Defense Production Act, the Biden administration is “getting right back on track.”
Last week, the Biden administration also announced that the federal government will be partnering with community health centers and clinics to distribute the vaccine directly to them, which Ocasio-Cortez said was good news.
Retail pharmacies, including Walgreens/Duane Reade, Costco and Rite Aid, will also receive the vaccine directly from the federal government, which will be used for New Yorkers 65 years and older
According to the city Department of Health, the boost in vaccines will give the city more than 164,000 vaccines to distribute. Chokshi noted that the city has already administered more than one million doses to New Yorkers.
“We could go much further and faster if we have additional supply,” he said.
Ruth Hassell-Thompson, special advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo, acknowledged that health care disparities exist in traditionally underseved communities, which have been hardest hit by COVID. That’s why equity is one of the state’s priorities when getting shots into the arms of constituents, she said.
Hassell-Thompson serves on the New York State COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Task Force, chaired by Attorney General Letitia James. Their objective is to not only ensure equitable distribution, but also dispel myths about the vaccine.
“This is the largest governmental operation in our lifetime,” Hassell-Thompson said.
Chokshi said the city still has work to do to reach Black and brown New Yorkers with the vaccine. According to data from the Department of Health, of the city residents who have received one dose, 44 percent have been white, while only 11 percent were Black, 16 percent were Latino and 15 percent identified as Asian.
“We have to ensure that it’s getting to the people who most warrant our attention with respect to our vaccination efforts,” he said.
When asked by a constituent how to best convince others to take the vaccine, Ocasio-Cortez’s advice was to approach without judgement.
“It’s about taking care of ourselves and others,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Us being vaccinated could help protect others who may not be able to get vaccines.
“Herd immunity is important to getting our public health and our community back on track,” she added.