Vaccinated person

City health officials say the highest numbers of new coronavirus cases in Philadelphia are among young Black adults aged 20 to 34. — NNPA stock image

City health officials say that 67.1% of the adults in Philadelphia are fully vaccinated and 81.9% have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re very excited about our vaccine numbers. We’re among the highest of the largest cities but we still have work to do” Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, acting Philadelphia health commissioner, said during a virtual media briefing last week.

More than 1 million people in Philadelphia have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

That’s the good news.

But the city has more work to do in reducing coronavirus cases among young adults and getting them vaccinated, particularly young Black adults.

Bettigole said the highest numbers of new coronavirus cases in Philadelphia are among Black adults aged 20 to 34. With young Black residents having the lowest vaccination rates of the city, she said city officials are targeting vaccination clinics and community outreach efforts to that population.

“It’s our young adults who are getting this right now,” Bettigole said. “I think it’s because people have gotten a little bit careless and that population has not been as motivated to get vaccinated because they think that it doesn’t affect them, but from what we’re hearing from the news around the country, we know that it’s our young adults in the hospital, young adults in the ICU and young adults dying of COVID, and we need our young adults to get the vaccine.”

She said the city is not contact tracing every case at this stage. However, based on the cases that have been traced, the majority of people were exposed to COVID in close contact at home.

“We tend to be much better at taking precautions with people that we don’t live with — people that we’re not close to,” Bettigole said. “And not thinking so much about a dear friend who comes over, a family member who doesn’t live with us who comes over. That’s where exposure is happening. People let their guard down. They take their masks off. They have a meal together with someone they don’t live with and now you have the cases spreading.”

She urged people to be aware of their risks as they start socializing and having parties again at home.

The solution is getting more people vaccinated, particularly young adults. Both a carrot and stick approach will be needed to get more people vaccinated.

Peggy Drexler, a research psychologist, documentary producer and author, suggested in a recent column a few tips to get the unvaccinated to change their minds, including more listening for the reasons for vaccine hesitancy, talking in a way that the unvaccinated will listen by staying detached and without emotion, and staying determined in asking the unvaccinated to get vaccinated.

“Chances are good you’re not going to convince anyone on your first attempt. But that doesn’t mean you won’t the second or third time. Don’t give up. The best route to success is often slow and steady,” said Drexler.

For some, persuasion will not be enough and more aggressive action will be needed.

President Joe Biden last week announced a plan to get two-thirds of the U.S. workforce vaccinated against the coronavirus, including private sector employees, health care workers and federal contractors — as well as the vast majority of federal workers, who could face disciplinary measures if they refuse.

The mounting and incontrovertible evidence that the delta variant is something to fear is forcing government officials and employers to take more aggressive action against vaccine holdouts to get the shot.

Biden’s sweeping action reflects his deep frustration with the roughly 80 million Americans who are eligible for the shots but have not been vaccinated.

“We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers,” Biden said.

We must encourage our young people not to wait until it’s too late to get vaccinated.

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