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Community rallies to fight vaccine hesitancy in Syracuse

Jessica Cain
Family Health Gatherings provide free vaccines across Syracuse

As the Delta variant of COVID-19 sweeps across the state, a major community effort is underway in Syracuse to encourage people to get vaccinated in neighborhoods with lower vaccination rates.

CNY Jazz Central, along with Syracuse Community Health Center and 100 Black Men of Syracuse, put together a series of festivals called “Family Health Gatherings.”

As of the fourth festival, more than 50 people had received vaccines. The summer concert series provides raffles for cash and TVs for people who have been vaccinated, music, and food vendors.

Christopher Thomas, 16, stopped by the Sankofa Park festival with his mother and decided it was the right time to get the shot.

"I was really skeptical about it, but now I'm not,” said Thomas. “But now I got it, so I think I'll be fine."

CNY Jazz Central Executive Director Larry Luttinger said the events are crucial to fight vaccine hesitancy in the city of Syracuse.

"We're here to get people to reduce their fear level to the point where they trust the people that are going to give them their shots and save themselves and save others," said Luttinger.

Workers from Syracuse Community Health are at each event to give the shots, hand out information, and answer questions from neighbors.

COO Derrick Murry said it gives them a chance to address any virus-related misinformation.

"They feel that they're impervious to being sick, and if they get sick, they feel that it was God's will,” said Murry. “Being a public health practitioner, I would contend that God wants people to use the resources that are available, inclusive of science."

Jerome Walker from 100 Black Men of Syracuse said he decided to get the vaccine and get involved in advocacy to help future generations.

"We've got to see our young people in school, without masks,” said Walker. “They deserve some type of normalcy in their lives."

There are two more chances to check out the Family Health Gatherings series. The next one will be August 15 at Leavenworth Park, and the final one of the summer will be August 22 at the Thornden Park Amphitheater.