LIVINGSTON, NJ — Dr. Steven Arsht, a Livingston resident and orthopedic surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, was so overcome with emotion when he received his first COVID-19 vaccination that it led to the establishment of a new social media campaign intended to encourage others to get vaccinated while also honoring those lost to or otherwise affected by the novel coronavirus.
“Our goal is to encourage people to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their loved ones and the people around them,” said Arsht, whose campaign also aims to “be a part of the solution, increase enthusiasm for receiving the vaccine [and] improve upon and overcome the feelings of distrust and ‘vaccine hesitancy’ that many communities of color are experiencing.”
While working “10-to-12 hours a day in the intensive care unit (ICU) taking care of very sick people” at the height of the pandemic, Arsht said he became painfully aware of how many people were suffering and dying alone in hospitals across the world.
“It had quite an impact on me as you can imagine,” said Arsht, who “became very emotional” as he drove into the city to receive his first shot a few weeks ago.
Throughout the vaccination experience, Arsht reflected on the year and specifically the loss of his brother-in-law, Louis Sarrel, who died from COVID-19 three days after his 58th birthday and shortly after going into remission from his cancer treatments. He also recalled the many stories “from patients who lost loved ones” as well as the “small businesses and communities that were hit so hard.”
After uttering the words “this jab’s for you” as the needle penetrated his arm and sharing a post-vaccination selfie with his family via text, Arsht realized that many others who have registered for the vaccine are likely doing so in honor of those who have been lost to or heavily affected by the pandemic.
He also realized that it would not only be cathartic and meaningful to those receiving the vaccination to dedicate their “jab” to a lost loved ones, first responders, people at high risk due to age or other underlying health conditions, grandparents longing to see and hug their grandchildren, etc., but it would also encourage others to consider taking these preventative measures to slow the spread.
And thus, the “This Jab’s For You” (TJFY) movement was born.
“As I was getting [the vaccine], I was thinking about the thousands of people that have died alone and everyone that suffered, so what we wanted to do was to create a place where we could collect people's stories to honor those that have died and wonderful stories about those in the community,” said Arsht. “Even if you did not know someone that passed away from this, you know everyone was affected. I feel like I need to do something to get the word out and to try to make a difference in the world because so many people want to tell their stories, they want to honor people who have passed away, and they want to honor people who have done wonderful things for the community during this time.”
In addition to honoring those who have been lost to COVID-19 and paying tribute to those who “really stepped up and worked hard and struggled to make it through”—including small business owners, teachers and more—Arsht also wants to reassure residents of “underserved communities” who either distrust the current medical system or are experiencing what he described as “vaccine hesitancy” that it is not only safe to receive the injection, but that it is necessary.
Arsht’s ultimate vision for the TJFY campaign is for residents across the country to post their vaccination photos on social media along with an explanation of their reasoning for receiving the shot in order to encourage others to do the same.
He and his TJFY team have created a website, an Instagram account and a Facebook page where people can post their vaccination pictures and share their stories of who or what they will be honoring when they receive their “jab.”
On the created platforms, participants are encouraged to tag their vaccination pictures with @thisjabsforyou or #thisjabsforyou and/or post their COVID-19 stories tagged with @thisjabsforyou or #thisjabsforyou
“With people posting their injections on social media, we could reach people all over the country in many different communities,” he said. “This would allow them to see that there are people like them getting the injection, getting the vaccine and that it's okay to do it…
“I think over time this will catch on, and I think it’s going to help a lot of people. I want to just really create excitement and enthusiasm and hopefully encourage people to get the vaccine. This is the light at the end of the tunnel; we really made it. I know that there's a lot of craziness that's going to happen, but we're getting there.”
After hearing Arsht’s idea during last week’s Livingston Township Council meeting, Mayor Shawn Klein dedicated his second “jab” to his two sons, Jack and Leo, and to “all the children of Livingston who have not been back to school full-time, but who hopefully will be soon.”
“This is a very warm and inspiring idea that will help people get through a tough time,” said Klein, who offered the full support of the township council in this effort. “I think even having TJFY stickers at the Essex County’s five vaccination centers would be a very good starting point for this.
We can approach the county, and maybe they can set up a backdrop that people take pictures and have stickers there. I think that's going to be a key place for us to start moving forward and to spread the word.”
Deputy Mayor Ed Meinhardt, who also mentioned Arsht’s involvement in the “Knock Cancer Out of the Park” campaign that was created in honor of 14-year-old cancer victim Jake Kestler, also commended Arsht for this latest endeavor.
“I know Steve, and whatever Steve does, he does because of one thing: what's in his heart,” said Meinhardt. “This is just at the core of what Steve's all about, so thank you again, Steve, for coming up with something great for this community for the state.
Also as part of the campaign, Arsht has also created a logo for the campaign that participants will be able to download from the website and write the name of their honoree(s) on for their tagged TJFY photos.
The logo includes a special template created by 16-year-old Parsippany resident Hannah Ernst, who started a project called “Faces of COVID Victims” after losing her grandfather that has since gone viral in multiple states.
“Faces of COVID Victims” is a collection of digital portraits created to memorialize the victims of COVID-19 by putting a face to a number. The portraits highlight a silhouette of the victim placed upon a yellow heart, such as the one of Sarrel that can be seen in the photos above.
“The message we're trying to get out to everybody is that we want people to take pictures, to tag us to post on Facebook and send us Emails with their stories and pictures so that we can compile everything and just put it out there for the world to see,” said Arsht. There has been so much death and devastation and negativity in the past year, and we want to celebrate the lives of those that lost we want to celebrate the lives of people that we see every day and new beginnings.”
To learn more about the TJFY campaign, CLICK HERE. To participate in the campaign, vaccination recipients should tag @thisjabsforyou and/or #thisjabsforyou in a post-injection social media post.
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