Long Island doctors worry not enough people are getting bivalent COVID booster shots

LONG ISLAND, N.Y. — There’s a push to get boosted on Long Island following a surge in COVID deaths over the summer.

While a new booster is ready, local health officials say not many people are getting them, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Monday. 

The Vaxmobile was out in Mineola – catching eyes and offering the brand new bivalent booster

“I was passing by. I was coming from the courthouse,” said Marie Jokum, who made a beeline for her COVID booster after learning the latest startling statistics.

COVID deaths from June to September this year nearly doubled compared to 2021 and tripled over 2020.   

“COVID is not totally gone, so we have to do our part,” said Jokum, who has friends who recently succumbed to the disease. 

The New York State Department of Health said far more Long Islanders died in the summer of 2022 than the previous two summers. 

“The people that are dying are either those that are unvaccinated, have not had COVID, and/or may have been vaccinated, even with a booster, but haven’t had a booster recently,” said Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mt. Sinai South Nassau Hospital.

Glatt said people with weakened immune systems and elderly contributed to the surprising summer spike. 

“Although people have forgotten about COVID, it’s clearly not gone. New variants are emerging. The incidents of the disease is still high to moderate in the New York area,” said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public heath at Northwell Health. 

Since April, the Long Island COVID positivity rate has been 7 percent. It was 0.4 percent in summer 2021, and 1 percent in summer 2020. 

Some say they’re not inclined to get boosted. 

“‘It’s not safe’ or ‘I heard you get these side effects.’ It kind of makes them really hesitant to come and get the vaccine. We educate our community,” said Abigail Fromm, a registered nurse at Mt. Sinai South Nassau Hospital. 

“Boosters are phenomenally effective. They have prevented tremendous amounts of death,” said Glatt. 

Doctors said immunity from vaccination or a COVID-19 infection can wane over time. In some cases, protection can disappear entirely, as we enter what’s expected to be a significant flu season with COVID still hovering and killing. 

“Flu and booster. You can get them both at the same time. That’s why you have two arms,” said Farber. 

Farber said arms may be a bit sore for a couple of days, but it’s worth it to save lives. 

Although doctors are concerned about the Long Island summer COVID death surge, they said the number of local COVID deaths for all of 2022 is, so far, lower than for the same period last year. 

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