Less than half of fully vaccinated Long Islanders have received their COVID-19 booster shot, according to the CDC, and the rates of those doing so are slowing — spreading concern among medical experts.
According to CDC data, 42.2% of fully vaccinated Long Islanders have received at least one booster shot.
Over the seven days starting Dec. 15, an average of 10,385 people a day on Long Island received their first boosters. That figure dropped to 3,179 people a day for the seven days ending Tuesday.
Medical experts said the numbers are fading for several reasons, including a declining sense of urgency as the omicron surge subsides.
They said getting a booster is critical because the first two vaccine shots eventually lose much of their strength. But convincing people to get the third shot isn’t easy, they said.
“I wish I had the answer,”said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology for Northwell Health.
Sean Clouston, an associate professor of public health at Stony Brook University, said many people think that with two shots they are protected, though experts said the booster is needed to maintain strength of the vaccines.
“They may not see the need because they feel like they have already done their part,” Clouston said.
And Farber said they should prepare to get more shots well into the future, since COVID-19 will not be disappearing.
“I suspect boosters will be needed probably on a yearly basis for a long, long time,” he said.
State officials contend they are making progress, and have launched several initiatives to boost the numbers. They include robocalls, hundreds of thousands of weekly text messages in English and Spanish, and radio and TV ads featuring state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett as part of a “Boost Up, NY” campaign.
Despite those efforts, the rate of people getting boosted is dropping.
“It’s fading because the rates of COVID in our community have plummeted over the last three weeks, four weeks,” Farber said. “That has probably taken the pressure off many people to get boosters.”
He noted that Long Island’s level of daily COVID-19 cases has dropped from about 400 cases per 100,000 residents six weeks ago to about 20 per 100,000 residents now.
DAILY POSITIVITY RATE
7-DAY POSITIVITY RATE
Source: New York State Department of Health
“COVID is not an immediate threat to people in the New York area compared to the way it was a month and a half ago,” Farber said.
Jean Marie Osborne, an associate professor of public health at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, said the CDC initially said two shots would be sufficient, and “I think that a lot of people held out a lot of hope that that would actually ring true.”
“By asking people to get a third dose, people are fatigued. They’re fatigued by mask wearing. They’re fatigued by not being able to do everything that they want to do in life. They’re fatigued by having to get boosted,” she said.
The numbers statewide are similar to Long Island’s. As of Tuesday, 42.5% of fully vaccinated New York residents had received at least one booster dose, according to CDC data.
For the most recent seven days of data, an average of 21,006 people a day were receiving their first booster shot. That compares to 73,710 a day for the seven days ending Dec. 22.
Osborne said confusion about the facts regarding the vaccines is also playing a role in the slow pace of people getting boosted.
“I think there is also a lot of information that’s going around that is untrue, and I think that people are having a difficult time sorting out what is scientific and what is rumor,” she said.
Both Osborne and Farber said people should get the booster, since it is safe and can prevent serious illness, hospitalization or even death.
A recent CDC study found that the protection from hospitalization provided by boosters wanes after four months, but remains high.
“We just don’t see people who have been vaccinated and boosted in the hospital, and we never see them in our ICUs, and we never see them dying unless they are severely immuno-suppressed,” Farber said.
The vaccines and booster “definitely won’t prevent all COVID. Their major goal is going to be just to keep people from being hospitalized and getting very sick from COVID, as opposed to having a relatively mild illness that they recover from,” he said.
COVID-19 indicators continued a general decline in figures released Wednesday after hitting record highs in January during the omicron surge.
Long Island logged 370 new confirmed cases in test results from Tuesday, and a 3.06% seven-day average for positivity.
Statewide, 37 people, including one each in Nassau and Suffolk, died on Tuesday of causes linked to the virus.
Sign up to get text alerts about COVID-19 and other topics at newsday.com/text.