Photo by Andrea Pineda-Salgado for Epicenter-NYC

Dear Neighbor,

Big news in the world of vaccines: The Food and Drug Administration approved the first Covid-19 vaccine — Pfizer-BioNTech — yesterday for those 16 and older. The vaccine, which will now be called Comirnaty (we shrug), will continue to be available under emergency-use authorization for those 12 to 15 years old. Perhaps this will increase vaccination rates; there are still roughly 90 million eligible unvaccinated people in the U.S.

Epicenter-NYC reporter Andrea Pineda-Salgado spoke to some of those folks this past Saturday at a protest against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandate. The group, which she said was surprisingly diverse, carried signs that compared vaccine mandates to segregation and the Holocaust and taunted those attending New York City’s Homecoming Concert in Central Park. We want to share what some of them said because we think this moment of vaccine outreach is key. As you know, Epicenter-NYC has been helping neighbors navigate vaccines since January. In the latest phase of the pandemic, we have encountered a lot of sentiments like those Andrea reports on below. And it can take weeks, even months, to bring someone around. But we know we will never bring them around if we do not stop to engage, understand and try. Caution: Some of their statements are flat-out wrong but we share them anyway. These anti-vaxxers are not just in far-off Texas or Florida. They are our neighbors, too. Edited excerpts:

“You shouldn’t be forced to take something that you don’t want to take, I thought it was our body, our choice and that now it’s not our choice anymore and it’s not our body —and that is just not right. You have to show papers now for everything, de Blasio is insane! I feel he’s a communist, I feel like our country is going in the wrong direction, I feel like we have to fight for our freedom because we are losing them everyday. They are talking about a third booster, you know my mother took the vaccine and after she took the vaccine she lost 20 pounds, 20, and she is sick and she is suffering at home, and this is a crime against humanity. In the future these politicians will pay for these crimes.”

–Carmen, 45, Chelsea

Photo of Irina Virid by Andrea Pineda-Salgado for Epicenter-NYC

“I am going to boycott all the restaurants [that require proof of vaccination] that’s why I call it a veterinary passport, that’s what they do to transport cattle. They have to be vaccinated etc., so now we are humans being turned into animals, slaves basically. [I am not getting vaccinated because] I don’t believe that health comes from the needle, I have an immune system, I’ve had much worse cases than Covid and you know you can’t vaccinate people from life. I mean, viruses, bacteria — they are trying to tell us that we are only alive because of the vaccine which is total BS.”

–Irina Virid, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

“This has been planned … go on YouTube. It’s been planned since 1920, the vaccines and how the government is taking over. The government is taking over our rights. [The vaccine] is poison. One of the ingredients in the vaccination is aborted fetus tissue, and people are so naive to that, you try to tell them and they refuse to believe it.”

–Norma Soto, Canarsie, Brooklyn

Photo by Andrea Pineda-Salgado for Epicenter-NYC

“We are fighting for our rights, our right to choose if we want the vaccine or not. [I don’t want to get vaccinated] because we have studied the issue and we think it harms us rather than strengthening our immune system.The vaccine changes your DNA, and other than changing your DNA, it has aluminum, it has mercury, it has animal cells, it has many things that apart from harming us in the short and long term. I already had Covid, so I am already immune. We respect the decision of those who already got vaccinated, but we want them to respect our decision too. So, we are against the government mandating us to have a vaccine passport to go into restaurants and do many other things. So we are fighting for that, we want the freedom to say ‘no,’ and if people want the vaccine, okay, but respect us too.I have vaccinated my kids before, but those were different. I am not anti-vaccine, I am anti-this vaccine.”

–Mara, Bronx, (Translated from Spanish)

“We are protesting the vaccine mandate. We are not anti-vax, we are anti-vaccine mandate. We just don’t want to be told where we can go, what we can do — basically you can’t make us second-class citizens because we chose not to get the vaccine, its medical freedom. Right now what they are pushing is medical tyranny and that’s not freedom to choose. [I am not getting vaccinated] because I am healthy, I haven’t gotten sick, nobody around me has gotten sick, I don’t see any reason why I should put something in my arm that up to this point is an experiment. “[The thing that discourages me the most from getting the vaccine is] just the fact that they are pushing it so hard, if it was really that good and it was that great you wouldn’t have to sell it to me.”

–Keith, Queens

Photo of Nathaneal Fernandez and Caroline by Andrea Pineda-Salgado for Epicenter-NYC

“Most Blacks aged 18-34 years old are unvaccinated, most Hispanics like myself are unvaccinated, our medical freedom, our decision to remain unvaccinated should be respected.  They are currently disrespecting us and saying ‘you can’t work, you can’t go to a restaurant, you can’t go to the gym, you can’t go to a public park where they are having a free concert,’ so it is just so wrong on so many levels.”

–Nathaneal Fernandez, Inwood

“What brings me here today is that we are fighting for our medical freedom, it is my body, my choice, no one should be forced into experimental vaccines. It is a violation of our constitution, violation of the number code, I don’t have to show you no f***** papers. It is segregation. [The] beginnning of Nazi Germany, that’s how it started. This is only the beginning, it’s going to get worse, and if we don’t start fighting now, we will all be doomed. Why is it that people don’t question? CDC employees are not being mandated, White House employees are not being mandated, FDA employees are not being mandated, so why are we being mandated and being forced into being lab rats?”

–Caroline, Upper West Side

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