BY ALEX KRUTCHIK
An incoming freshman at Great Neck South High School was among the 10 winners of the most recent “Get a Shot to Make Your Future” vaccine raffle.
Amaya Thalappillil’s name was called by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the fifth and final round of the drawing on June 30.
Winners of the raffle, who must be vaccinated and be between 12 and 17 years old, receive a full scholarship to any New York public college or university. This includes tuition, room and board, and expenses.
“My first thought when I heard I had won was just thinking it was fake, because there was no way I had actually won,” Amaya said. “It took some time for me to realize it was 100 percent real, and I was just beyond excited at that point.”
Amaya’s father entered her and her sister, Imani, into the raffle right after they received their vaccines in early May.
Amaya’s mother, Tiffany, said the scholarship will allow her to choose where she wants to go to college and explore opportunities that would not have been available otherwise due to financial restrictions.
“We are so proud of Amaya for being brave and taking the COVID-19 vaccine,” Tiffany said. “It was her choice completely. Our family has been through a lot this past year. Lots of emotions and long hours, but there is hope for a restoration of normalcy now thanks to these vaccines. Amaya truly is an incredible kid and we are both honored and humbled by this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Amaya, 14, is considering attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
When the state of New York introduced this program, Cuomo cited the stagnating vaccine rates, especially among young New Yorkers who make up a large portion of positive cases in the state. As of July 2, the case rate for New Yorkers aged 13 to 17 was 7,082 per 100,000 people since the beginning of the pandemic.
The average rate for all ages was 9,452. Cuomo added that 72 percent of New Yorkers over the age of 18 have received at least one vaccine shot, according to CDC figures.
“Getting vaccinated is the key to our success defeating COVID-19 and restoring the economy, and this extraordinary incentive for the state’s young people has helped us put shots in arms across New York,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Some concern arose when the World Health Organization declared the emerging Delta variant of the virus “a variant of concern.” The variant, which was first identified in India, now accounts for 25 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the United States, and is predicted to become the dominant version of the virus circulating in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scientists say this variant appears to be more transmissive, and some indications are that it could also cause more severe symptoms. However, at this time, scientists say fully vaccinated individuals appear to face little risk from the variant.
New York COVID-19 cases continue to plummet. As of July 1, the seven-day rolling average of cases in Nassau County was 24. Just one month ago, that number was 38.