MTA worker vaccine

LET'S GO VACCINATE: A transit worker is among the first employed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to get the coronavirus vaccine, a development Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano likened to 'the light at the end of the tunnel.'

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has embarked on an aggressive two-track strategy to inoculate its 70,000-member workforce against the coronavirus, even as it concedes that the lack of a sufficient supply of the vaccine will extend the process for "several months."

The roll-out, in cooperation with Transport Workers Union Local 100, came after Governor Cuomo's decision to expand access to the vaccine Jan. 11 beyond front line health-care workers.


'Demand Exceeds Supply'

In addition to a mass vaccination site at the Javits Center in Manhattan, the MTA has committed to opening worksite locations, and hourly workers will be entitled to a "special pay allowance."

"The MTA will receive an allocation of the vaccine proportionate to our population of the essential workforce," a memo to employees stated. "Demand for the vaccine currently far exceeds supply. You may not be scheduled to receive the vaccine for several weeks."

"I plan on getting vaccinated, and I'm encouraging my members to get the shot," Local 100 President Tony Utano said. "This is the light at the end of a very dark tunnel."

Union officers are signing up members for vaccines at the Javits Center, with Local 100 spokesman Pete Donohue emailing, "The union and MTA are conducting social media campaigns—promoting photos of members getting the shot." 

Close to 100 of the 133 MTA employees who have died during the pandemic were Local 100 members. A dozen members of the Subway Surface Supervisors Association have also perished.

Lingering Symptoms

Medical studies have suggested that as many as one in three COVID survivors may suffer lingering symptoms, which can vary greatly in severity.

The virus can create scarring on the lungs, including among individuals who were asymptomatic.

"One thing we didn't anticipate was that the virus seems to accelerate a great deal of scarring in the lungs," wrote Dr. John Swartzberg, of the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program. "And if lung tissue is replaced with scar tissue, it is no longer functional as regular pulmonary tissue, which translates to poor gas exchange."

He continued, "What we really fear is long-term shortness of breath that could extend anywhere from being very mild to severely limiting. There is also a disturbing report looking at computerized tomography (CT) scans of asymptomatic people that found they were left with some scar tissue. So, this could even be happening on a sub-clinical level.

"It can also do damage to both the heart and the central nervous system," Dr. Swartzberg found.

Psychological Scars

The study also showed that after patients leave the hospital, they can encounter psychological challenges, not unlike PTSD but with "cognitive defects in some people that are very disturbing."

Three months ago, a health survey conducted by New York University School of Global Public Health in collaboration with Local 100 found that nearly 25 percent of its members had contracted the coronavirus and 90 percent of them feared getting it at work.

Respondents were closely divided over being vaccinated, with 30 percent saying they would take it, 32 percent demurring and 38 percent unsure. undecided.

Workers also reported that they were dealing with mental-health and quality-of-life issues as a result of the pandemic, with 60 percent feeling "nervous, anxious, on edge" and unable to "control worrying."

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