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ICYMI: MTA Chairman Foye and TWU Local 100 President Utano Op-Ed: 'Transit workers, get on the vaccination train'

Updated January 14, 2021 2:13 p.m.

MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye and TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano wrote an op-ed published by the NY Daily News yesterday urging all MTA employees to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

Transit workers, get on the vaccination train

It’s no secret that the MTA has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet dedicated transit workers continue to be the heroes moving heroes of this crisis, putting themselves at risk day after day to keep the metropolitan region rolling.

Now for the first time since the virus hit New York in March, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

As of this week, the entire MTA workforce has rightly been included for inoculation under Phase 1b of New York State’s vaccine distribution plan. As chairman and CEO of the Authority and as the president of its largest labor union, we’re in firm agreement that every worker who can should get the vaccine. That starts with our frontline transit workers, who deserve priority.

The state is setting up several distribution hubs, including one at the Javits Center, where some employees can receive their shots. Meanwhile, the MTA is preparing to offer on-site vaccinations at certain work locations systemwide in the coming weeks, similar to the existing COVID testing program available to employees.

While we work to scale up these programs, it’s important to be clear about one thing: These efforts can only succeed if the workforce participates.

We recognize that some transit workers may be hesitant about getting the vaccine, and we understand those concerns. But we are comforted by the fact that the data has been quite clear. Clinical trials have shown that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective — 95% effective in fact. They are not made of materials that can cause disease, and while there may be modest short-term side effects, medical experts have made clear that these effects are the body’s way of signaling that the vaccine is starting to work. No serious long-term issues related to the vaccines have been reported to date.

The bottom line is that this is our shot — literally — to beat this virus. We can’t pass it up. We’ve come too far and it is transit workers who have carried this region through the pandemic on their backs.

If we are to return to some type of normalcy and reopen our great city more quickly, we need as many people as possible to get vaccinated. It is the single best way we can protect ourselves and each other while powering New York’s recovery. During Phase 1a, we saw some essential workers reject the shot; we strongly encourage workers not to do that. This is just too important, especially for those among us living with underlying health conditions that can increase the severity of illness caused by COVID-19.

If we’re going to stop this pandemic once and for all, we need to use all the tools available to us. So, in addition to getting vaccinated, we should continue wearing masks, getting tested often, maintaining social distance, washing our hands frequently, staying home if we feel sick and limiting unnecessary travel.

Causes for genuine hope have been perilously few and far between over these dreadful last ten months, but the vaccine is the real deal. The light at the end of the tunnel is finally visible. We can’t miss the moment.

Foye is chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Utano is president of TWU Local 100.