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Vaccine hesitancy in Borough Park

JULIAN ABRAHAM, REPORTER: On a sunny morning, yellow buses pull up to a Borough Park school. The boys are wearing yamukahs and traditional curls, the girls with long dresses. All the kids joyfully pile out of the bus and into the school.

Some health care workers believe that most younger kids in this Orthodox Jewish community aren’t yet vaccinated.

BLIMI MARCUS, NURSE:I think for 5-11…that number is much, much lower.

ABRAHAM: That’s Blimi Marcus, a Nurse Practitioner who lives and practices in Borough Park. She says since the vaccine became available for 5-11 years olds, she’s had limited success encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated.

MARCUS: There’s a lot of concerns about the vaccine and not a lot of concern about COVID in young children. And, from my interactions with people, they don’t see any benefit in vaccinating their children.

ABRAHAM: The New York City Department of Health doesn’t have the data yet on vaccination rates among the 5-11 year olds in the city. But less than a third of kids age 11-17 in Borough Park have been vaccinated so far.Marcus says misinformation is rampant in the community, and she thinks its is a big source of hesitancy.

MARCUS: There are a lot of advertisements, either physical papers hung around the community, as well as other things going around electronically. And also advertisements in magazines.

ABRAHAM: Marcus says the solution is to try to counter misinformation and build trust. She’s active on social media, and she regularly sets up booth on the street to answer questions and hand out literature. But she remains surprised to see the hesitancy spread in the Orthodox community.

MARCUS: Rabbis everywhere have encouraged vaccinations, following public health guidelines. And one of the biggest laws in Judaism is saving life and doing anything possible to stabilize. You can violate the commandment to save lives. So that's very much emphasized.

ABRAHAM: The only way to solve the problem, she says, is through leadership, accountability, removal of misinformation, and trust.

Julian Abraham, Columbia Radio News.


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