Keeping COVID-19 infection rates low will depend in part on more...

Keeping COVID-19 infection rates low will depend in part on more people getting a booster shot, Long Island medical experts said. Credit: AFP via Getty Images/Clement Mahoudeau

The number of Long Islanders getting COVID-19 booster shots has dropped by 92% in the past three months, a result of “COVID fatigue” and other factors, medical experts said Tuesday.

For the week ending Dec. 22, 2021, a daily average of 10,385 Long Island residents received their first booster, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. That number dropped to a daily average of 780 residents for the seven-day period ending Monday.

Data revealing such a steep drop comes as Gov. Kathy Hochul has urged New Yorkers to get boosted amid the rise of a new omicron subvariant and New York City Mayor Eric Adams's announcement Tuesday that 2- to 4-year-olds in city schools and day cares can go maskless starting next month, if the COVID-19 risk remains low.

But keeping that risk low, Long Island medical experts said, will depend in part on those resistant to a COVID-19 booster getting past pandemic fatigue or the flood of falsehoods and disinformation about vaccine safety easily accessible on the web.

What to know

  • The number of Long Islanders getting COVID-19 booster shots has dropped by 92% in the past three months.
  • Long Island medical experts say the drop is a result of “COVID fatigue” and other factors.
  • NYC Mayor Eric Adams announced on Tuesday that 2- to 4-year-olds in city schools and day cares can go maskless starting next month, if the COVID-19 risk remains low.

“ 'Aren’t we over this yet? Why do I have to still think about it?'” is what many people are saying to themselves, said Dr. Alan M. Bulbin, director of infectious disease at Catholic Health St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center in Roslyn, citing “the burnout from all things COVID. … COVID fatigue is probably playing a big role."

But so is disinformation about the vaccines and boosters spread on the internet, according to Bulbin. Many people believe false statements put out on social media, such as the vaccines are dangerous or cause infertility, he said.

“ 'I did my part,' " Bulbin said, describing the thought process behind some people's booster resistance. " 'I did my first two shots. Why do I have to take any more risk and expose myself to any other vaccines or boosters? ' "

While it is good that people have avoided getting sick because of their two COVID-19 vaccines, “we still need to prevent your next infection, and perhaps one of the few ways to do that is to get a booster," said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the division of pediatric diseases at Stony Brook Children's Hospital.

“It’s the same approach as wearing a seat belt," she added. "You’re a great driver, you haven’t had an accident. 'Why do I need a seat belt?' Because for the next time, I don’t know about the other car. I need you to be safe all the time."

The reality is, Bulbin said, inoculation against COVID-19 is safe and highly effective against preventing hospitalization or death.

“These vaccines are still holding up against the pandemic,” he said, adding that after getting the first two shots, “a booster is the best thing you can do. There’s no doubt that a three-dose strategy just has so much more to offer.”

In a statement, state health department officials said they “continue to do everything possible to urge New Yorkers to get boosted.”

Those efforts include public information, direct outreach, and advertising programs, as well as expanding booster access at state-run mass vaccination sites and pop-up events, according to the statement.

The state is also requiring nursing home and adult care facilities to make boosters available on-site, and authorizing EMTs to administer the vaccine.

In the latest COVID-19 indicators, the seven-day positivity average on Long Island dropped slightly to 1.91% from 1.95% the previous day. Long Island registered 149 new confirmed cases Monday. Statewide, seven people died on Monday from causes linked to the virus. None of the fatalities was on Long Island.

Maskless children

Adams announcement that beginning in April, masks will not be required for 2- to 4-year-olds in New York City schools and day cares followed the lifting two weeks ago of a mask mandate for the city's K-12 public school students. Since then, said Adams, "our percent positivity in schools has, thankfully, remained low."

If this trend continues, Adams said masks would be optional for younger students starting April 4.

The mayor convened a news conference at City Hall to announce the policy change

"We want to see our babies’ faces,” Adams said.

The city's new health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, cited indicators such as the low rate of transmission, and how "our hospitals have plenty of capacity" — a contrast with the worst days of the pandemic.

"Less risk means more choices for New Yorkers," Vasan said.

But he suggested that mandates could return if the indicators worsen.

"If we see the levels of risk rise, either before or after the mandate is lifted, we may be here having another conversation," he said.

While hospitalization rates among the 2-to-4 age group is higher in comparison to other children, "they overall remain extremely low," Vasan added.

Last week, Adams told an irate father who confronted him on the street about the mandate: “I got this. I’ll take care of it. They’ll be unmasked.”

A day later, Vasan, who started the job earlier in the week, said the mandate should continue indefinitely, until the age group can be safely and effectively vaccinated.

“I would love nothing more than to send my son to day care without a mask. … But as a scientist … I want to keep him safe because he’s not eligible for a vaccine," Vasan said at the time.

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