Despite the rising rate of community transmission of flu, Covid-19, and respiratory syncytial virus —and the reality that all three diseases are spreading in a “tridemic” across New York City, Long Island, and beyond—results from the latest Mount Sinai South Nassau “Truth in Medicine” Poll indicate that the public’s urgency to get vaccinated for flu and Covid-19 is low.
Fewer than two-thirds of 600 poll respondents have received a flu vaccine since Sept. 1, 2022, while just 56 percent of respondents have updated their Covid-19 vaccination with a bivalent booster.
“It makes me sick” and “I never get one” are the two main reasons for those who have not had, and don’t intend to get, a flu vaccine. But, as Mount Sinai South Nassau President Adhi Sharma says, “This fall and winter, the flu is highly contagious along with Covid-19 and RSV. The flu and Covid-19 vaccines have been updated, and they are safe and very effective. I strongly urge people to take action now and get vaccinated.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations, and 4,500 deaths from flu. Those who should give strong consideration to following Sharma’s advice are unvaccinated individuals, including those among the 36 percent of respondents who said they plan to attend large holiday gatherings and among the 60 percent of respondents who have minimal concern for mingling in large groups.
The waning urgency to get vaccinated, low public awareness of the tridemic threat, and the fact that 93 percent of the poll respondents said they are not considering any changes to their plans for the holidays is of significant concern, said Sharma.
Public awareness of the risk of a tridemic is low: just 8 percent of the poll’s respondents have “heard a lot” about it, while 31 percent have “heard some,” 27 percent have “not heard much,” and 30 percent have “heard nothing.” After the tridemic was explained to uninformed poll respondents, concern remained rather low, with 5 percent saying they are very concerned and 36 percent saying they are somewhat concerned.
The CDC says it is safe to get the Covid-19 and flu vaccines together, even during the same visit to the doctor or pharmacy, although some might prefer to vaccinate at separate times to minimize the reaction.
RSV typically spreads during the fall and winter and is spreading very actively at this time in communities throughout New York. RSV is spread through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of infected people when they cough and sneeze. Typical symptoms resemble the common cold, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than 1 year old in the United States.
“If you have never received the ‘pneumonia vaccine’ against pneumococcal pneumonia, those 65 years or older or between the ages of 19 through 64 with underlying medical conditions or risk factors should discuss getting it with their doctors,” advises Aaron Glatt, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Chief of Infectious Diseases, and hospital epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau.
“It would be dispiriting if we took a step backward from the gallant and determined recovery we have achieved in the wake of the pandemic,” said Linda Armyn, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Bethpage Federal Credit Union.