As vaccination rates plateau and the delta variant's spread drives spikes in daily case counts, hospitalizations, and Covid deaths not seen since last winter, WEWS Channel 5 asked the seven candidates in the Cleveland mayoral primary if they've gotten their shot and generally about vaccine policy and outreach.
They're important questions: The city of Cleveland has a 36% vaccination rate, trailing Ohio's other major metro areas as well as the rest of Cuyahoga County on average.
Five candidates — Justin Bibb, Kevin Kelley, Ross DiBello, Sandra Williams and Zack Reed — said they have absolutely gotten their vaccines.
One — Basheer Jones — said he has not.
And one — Dennis Kucinich — refused to answer.
Here are the exchanges with Jones and Kucinich:
Ron Regan: "We still have a lot of folks who are not vaccinated. How would you change that?"
Basheer Jones: "You know, people have to make a decision what's best for their health."
Ron Regan: "Are you vaccinated?"
Basheer Jones: "I'm going to be getting vaccinated. But not yet."
Ron Regan: "What held you back?"
Basheer Jones: "You know, I want to make sure that my elders get it, want to make sure that my children get it. I want to make sure the people of my community had access to it. So it wasn't something that I wanted to rush and make sure of."
There are no shortages of vaccines in America and haven't been since they were first rolled out in stages early this spring. Every corner pharmacy has had ample supply for walk-in patients for quite some time now.
As for Dennis!, when asked if he was vaccinated, Kucinich said:
"I'm not going to go there because I'm not going to use what I have done or haven't done."Campaigns are literally based on what candidates have and haven't done and why what they have or haven't done should matter to voters. (Update: The Kucinich campaign today released a letter, which you can read below, from his doctor noting that he has an underlying medical condition "which requires prudent consideration of any potential therapeutic intervention.")
Public health departments have been battling disinformation, language barriers and general distrust in combating the lagging vaccination rates in minority populations.
Across Ohio, only 36% of Black residents have received at least their first dose compared to the statewide average of 51% for all residents.
Cleveland's Chief Epidemiologist Elizabeth Svoboda last month said the delta variant has brought "an increased risk for everyone" and that the city is seeing increased infection rates in all age groups.