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A member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s task force to improve access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the Big Apple’s public housing complexes still hasn’t gotten the shots himself months into the inoculation campaign.
The reticence of Danny Barber — who heads the citywide tenant association for Housing Authority residents — provides a powerful example of the hurdles public health officials face as they combat a new wave of cases fueled by COVID-19’s Delta variant.
“I have still not taken the vaccination, and I will not take the vaccination,” said Barber, who has previously discussed his vaccine hesitancy publicly. “It should always be your body, your choice.”
He said that he was recruited by Cuomo’s office to help improve vaccine access for the estimated half-million tenants who live in NYCHA’s apartments.
“I would never tell people what to do with their body or not to do — it’s their choice,” Barber said. “But if you choose to take it, I will find you a place to take it.”
“I chose not to take it,” he added. “My job was to make it accessible in the NYCHA developments. I was successful at my job for all those seniors who were tested.”
Barber told The Post that his reticence is fueled, in part, by third- and fourth-hand stories of side effects that he’s heard from colleagues and neighbors — and because the vaccines are still awaiting their final approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Those worries persist even as more than 160 million Americans have safely received at least one dose — and as federal officials and health experts say the vaccination campaign needs to be stepped up to stop new coronavirus outbreaks.
“If the Food and Drug Administration approves it and says it’s safe — it’s a sense of assurance,” Barber said.
“If the FDA approves it, I will strongly consider it,” he added. “There’s like a 95-98 percent chance I will go and take it.”
The shots have been cleared for emergency use pending the final FDA certification because of the public health emergency presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
Some residents at his complex in The Bronx, the Jackson Houses, share Barber’s worries.
“I know people who gotten it [the vaccine] and are OK, and I know people who got COVID and still are also OK,” said mother JesLiza Jones, 33, who has not yet gotten her shots either.
Others said they were inoculated and called on the hesitant to step up.
“I think the issue is that people are scared to get vaccinated or die or get sick from it. People want to know they are safe and there is no risk at all from getting the vaccine,” said Ty’tiana Ford, 21.
“My whole family is vaccinated, and it’s important to keep us safe,” she added. “I say everyone should get vaccinated.”
Some tenants went further and called on local leaders, like Barber, to get their shots.
“He needs to lead by example and get the vaccine, too. I got my vaccine and so did everyone in my family,” said Carmen Irizarry, 74. “It’s important.”
The holdouts in the Jackson Houses are among the nearly 2 million adults in the five boroughs who have yet to get a single dose of vaccine.
City data shows the Big Apple’s inoculation campaign is lagging the most among younger New Yorkers and African Americans.
Just 42 percent of black adults in the city have received at least one shot so far, compared to 57 percent of whites and 59 percent of Hispanics, according to the city Health Department.
Overall, 72 percent of New Yorkers have gotten at least one shot, according to the data.
Barber also isn’t alone with his concerns about the final FDA certification.
It was one of the most common factors sited by vaccine hesitant Americans in polling conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation — with 44 percent saying the federal watchdog giving its final blessing would make them more likely to get their shots.
More than 160 million Americans have gotten the jabs since they were authorized for emergency use last year — one step short of a full and final FDA blessing. More than 70 percent of all adults have gotten at least one shot.
“The situation was so urgent because an airborne infectious disease was on the way to becoming the leading cause of death in America — and therefore they had invoke the emergency authorization because the public health crisis was the emergency,” said professor Cheryl Healton, the dean of the NYU School of Global Public Health.
“That doesn’t mean it wasn’t studied. It was and the found it was safe. But they had to get the vaccine out the door faster than the normal process would have allowed,” she said. “Or more lives would be lost.”
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