Building Herd Immunity One Shot at a Time

Vaccine supply now outpaces demand, which is a far cry from where we were just six weeks ago.  The challenge now is to build confidence in those who remain unvaccinated, but are eligible for a vaccine, and convince them to get the shot.  It’s the only way to herd immunity and near normalcy in our personal and professional lives.  Herd immunity is reached when about 70 to 80 percent of the population is vaccinated or have immunity due to exposure, according to the National Institutes of Health infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Vaccine Hesitancy

Research tells us that people are “vaccine hesitant” for many reasons, not the least of which is a lack of solid understanding about how the COVID vaccine works.  That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health, and other public health resources offer simple explanations about these vaccines, which truly are wonders of modern medicine.  I have heard some clever analogies to explain the mechanics of the process, including likening it to that of a piece of furniture that is delivered in a box.  Inside the box are instructions that explain how to assemble the item.  Once the item is assembled, those instructions are no longer needed.  Such is the case with the COVID vaccine.  Once the vaccine enters the body and transmits its instructions, the immune system response to that particular virus is assembled.  Immunity and protection are achieved.

The National COVID Collaborative and the Ad Council delved into vaccine hesitancy psychology in preparation for the release of its public campaign – It’s Up to You – which by the way it is.  Not surprisingly, they found that knowledge eases a person’s fear of the unknown about the vaccines.  With that knowledge, vaccine hesitancy fades away.

Helping Individuals Choose Vaccination

Regions are experimenting with a variety of incentives to entice people to get the vaccine.  In New York, a vaccine gets you a transit ticket.  In Ohio, you could win the vaccine lotto.  Still, the most important reason for getting the vaccine – that it prevents severe disease and death – is the most compelling motivator for choosing vaccination. 

This is why hospital personnel and public health officials are holding pop up vaccination sites at neighborhood churches, at fire houses and civic centers, at barber shops and salons, and at local food pantries.  Targeted efforts are bringing the vaccine to the homebound and homeless populations.   A growing number of physicians are offering it in their offices.  Many people are more comfortable talking to their trusted doctor first before choosing vaccination.

With the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for those 12 years of age and older, local school districts are now working with local hospitals, county health departments, and community physician practices to bring vaccines to adolescents. 

Finally, the CDC announced on May 13, 2021 that vaccinated individuals could unmask indoors or outdoors, with few exceptions.  Another forceful reason for choosing vaccination. 

The Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State is committed to working with our region’s hospitals and public health officials in this final push to reach herd immunity.  Our “Have You Herd” campaign is all about educating the public about the importance of vaccination and everyone’s responsibility to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their community. 

About the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State

The Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State advocates on behalf of hospitals in the Hudson Valley and Long Island regions. It engages key lawmakers and regulatory decision-makers in Albany and Washington to ensure reasonable and rational health care policy prevails.

About the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council (NSHC)   

The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council represents the not-for-profit and public hospitals on Long Island. It works in conjunction with the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State to advance legislative and regulatory priorities.  NSHC serves as the local and collective voice of hospitals on Long Island.

About the Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association (NorMet)  

The Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association represents the not-for-profit and public hospitals in the Hudson Valley region. It works in conjunction with the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State to advance legislative and regulatory priorities.  NorMet serves as the local and collective voice of hospitals in the Hudson Valley.

What A Difference a Year Makes

A year ago, our hospitals were besieged with patients suffering from a severe respiratory illness known as COVID-19.  Those early days were chaotic and intense both for patients and the healthcare workers who tended to those patients.  Many lives were saved, many lives were lost. 

But now, just a year later, our country has three good, safe, and effective vaccines that all protect against severe illness and death.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rigorously studied each one, and it is truly a testament to our nation’s brilliant scientists and public health experts that these life-saving vaccines were developed and tested in less than a year.  It is a remarkable feat, and we are all beneficiaries of this extraordinary behind-the-scenes work.

The distribution of vaccines has been no less remarkable, even as demand outpaced supply.  However, that situation is looking better each day.  Our hospital associations have been working with the state’s Regional Vaccination Networks, known as HUBs, and their partners – hospitals, local county health departments, and federally-qualified health centers – to get a shot in as many arms as possible.  We have all payed particular attention to individuals of color who were and continue to be disproportionately susceptible to COVID-19.  Our regions, along with the state, have made vaccinating this group a priority from the start.   Northwell Health serves as the HUB for the Long Island region and the Westchester Medical Center serves as the HUB for the Hudson Valley region.

We are all anxious to return to normal, both in our personal and professional lives.  The vaccine is our opportunity to do that.  But we need everyone who is eligible for the vaccine to roll up their sleeve and take a shot not only to protect themselves, but to protect everyone else as well.  This is what is meant by the term “Herd Immunity.”    Herd immunity is reached when a significant percent of the population – about 80 percent – has received a vaccine and/or has become immune to an infectious disease because of exposure.  This widespread immunity means susceptible individuals are much less likely to come into contact with an infected person.

Have you herd? Immunity is the word!

This is the focus of a COVID-19 vaccination awareness campaign spearheaded by the Suburban Hospital Alliance on behalf of its member hospitals and the thousands of patients they serve. The greater the number of vaccinated means the sooner we can return to our normal lives and the sooner our local economies can recover.  And a healthier community leads to healthier hospitals because this highly contagious, infectious disease is kept at bay, allowing hospital staff to function under less stress and strain. 

Get Your Questions Answered

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is a good place to start to learn more about COVID-19, the vaccines and eligibility.  The Ad Council and the COVID Collaborative also just launched their “It’s Up to You” campaign about COVID vaccination.  It’s an easy-to-navigate site packed with straight forward information and answers.  Visit GetVaccineAnswers.org (DeTiDepende.org in Spanish) and get your questions answered now so you can make an informed decision about the vaccine when it’s your turn.

Our region’s hospitals urge you to get vaccinated as soon as you can.  While the individual decision to get vaccinated might seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of herd immunity, the impact of your individual choice is significant and widespread. Get vaccinated and be part of the movement to end COVID-19.

Vaccine Resources

NYSDOH Am I Eligible App

VaccineFinder.org

About the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State

The Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State advocates on behalf of hospitals in the Hudson Valley and Long Island regions. It engages key lawmakers and regulatory decision-makers in Albany and Washington to ensure reasonable and rational health care policy prevails.

About the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council (NSHC)   

The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council represents the not-for-profit and public hospitals on Long Island. It works in conjunction with the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State to advance legislative and regulatory priorities.  NSHC serves as the local and collective voice of hospitals on Long Island.

About the Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association (NorMet)  

The Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association represents the not-for-profit and public hospitals in the Hudson Valley region. It works in conjunction with the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State to advance legislative and regulatory priorities.  NorMet serves as the local and collective voice of hospitals in the Hudson Valley.

Meet New SHANYS President/CEO – Wendy Darwell

Greetings.

It has been about a month and a half since I took the reins of the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State (SHANYS) and its regional hospital associations – the Nassau Suffolk Hospital Council and the Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association – as president/CEO.  Fresh from my 13-year tenure as chief operating officer for SHANYS and its two regional associations, I can say the transition has been relatively smooth.  But, like it has for all my healthcare colleagues, the pandemic has presented tough challenges and continues to do so.

We began this year with the rollout of two coronavirus vaccines and a directive to get all healthcare workers, or the 1A group, vaccinated.  Our hospitals have made remarkable progress in this area, even while our frontline hospital workers battled a surge of COVID cases following the holiday season.   They have been at this fight for nearly a year, and I marvel at their strength, courage, and tenacity day in and day out.  I know it is physically and emotionally exhausting for them.

Behind the scenes, the Suburban Hospital Alliance has been working to decipher the myriad of COVID-related state and federal regulations directing our hospitals’ actions and daily operations.  There have been hundreds and counting.  It’s our job to help our hospitals understand these rules and the effect of legislation, such as the CARES Act and subsequent versions of it, upon their ability to do their best work every day, while remaining compliant.  The hospital industry in New York is heavily regulated.  That was the case before the pandemic, and it will be the case after the pandemic.

Our hospitals have made remarkable progress . . . even while our frontline hospital workers battled a surge of COVID-19 cases following the holiday season.

Healthcare policy is complicated. Plain and simple.  I spent half my career in Washington, DC, working for the late Congressman Maurice Hinchey, and during that time, I found myself drawn to healthcare policy precisely because it offered a level complexity that appealed to me and still does.  I knew I would never be bored.  That has turned out to be more than true.

I began working at the capitol during the Clinton administration’s attempt to reform healthcare.  Although the effort failed, the policy work that laid the foundation for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would not have happened if comprehensive healthcare reform had not been attempted.  I was no longer working in Washington when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was deliberated and enacted.  It was the best deal the federal government could deliver at the time, and I think we will see it improved. 

It’s important to me to do work that contributes to the greater good.  I began my career in public service and was fortunate some 13 years ago to land at this organization.  Here I have been able to witness firsthand the fruits of healthcare policy borne out in programs that truly help constituents.  For some 20 years, the Hospital Council has overseen insurance enrollment assistance programs that have made a difference in the lives of hundreds of Long Islanders.  On a broader scale, the Suburban Hospital Alliance has influenced the decision-making process at the state and federal levels resulting in policies that are not only rational and practical for hospitals, but ultimately beneficial to patients.  New York’s out-of-network surprise billing law, upon which the recently-enacted federal law is modeled, is a good example.

In normal times, I would be spending my days in Albany right now meeting with legislators and advocating on behalf of our 50 hospitals located in the Long Island and Hudson Valley regions.  I am still doing that, but it is from behind a computer camera and through a zoom link.  It’s an untraditional way to advocate, but our important messages are being communicated just the same.  It’s a new “playbook” for all of us and maybe this makes it the perfect time for me and my organization to get a fresh start.

Please, always feel free to reach out to me or any member of my staff. 

About the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State

The Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State advocates on behalf of hospitals in the Hudson Valley and Long Island regions. It engages key lawmakers and regulatory decision-makers in Albany and Washington to ensure reasonable and rational health care policy prevails.

About the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council (NSHC)   

The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council represents the not-for-profit and public hospitals on Long Island. It works in conjunction with the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State to advance legislative and regulatory priorities.  NSHC serves as the local and collective voice of hospitals on Long Island.

About the Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association (NorMet)  

The Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association represents the not-for-profit and public hospitals in the Hudson Valley region. It works in conjunction with the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State to advance legislative and regulatory priorities.  NorMet serves as the local and collective voice of hospitals in the Hudson Valley.