CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen, in return to Nassau, urges vaccinations for flu, COVID, RSV

Only 14% of adults across the U.S. have received the updated COVID-19 vaccine, a number way too low, Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a Baldwin native, said during a visit to Long Island on Monday.

Cohen urged local residents to get the vaccine, noting that while cases appear to be low, almost 1,000 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 over the last three months. She echoed the vaccination call for flu and RSV, pointing out both are on the rise locally and nationally.

“I’m here in Nassau County where I grew up,” said Cohen, after a tour of Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. “I wouldn’t recommend something I wouldn’t recommend for my own parents for my own daughters. We all got the updated COVID vaccine, the updated flu shot. So I hope folks in Nassau County can hear from one of their own. I’m here back at home to say protect yourself this holiday season.”

Statistics from the state Department of Health show about 7.2% of Nassau County residents and 6.8% of Suffolk County residents have received the updated vaccine, although those numbers may be incomplete because reporting is no longer mandatory. The statewide percentage, in areas outside of New York City, is 8.7%.

The national percentage can’t be directly compared with county and state numbers, however, since they’re collected by different methods.

The CDC numbers are based on a national survey, which is self-reported. As of Nov. 17, 5.4% of children, 14.8% of adults over the age of 18 and 31.7% of adults 65 years of age and older had received the updated COVID-19 vaccine.

This is the first year vaccines for RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, are available, targeted for young children, pregnant women and older adults. Cohen acknowledged the RSV monoclonal antibodies treatment for infants and young children is still in short supply.

“The manufacturer did not anticipate the high demand for this shot,” Cohen said. “I personally have been on the phone with them dozens of times to try to speed up production. We actually just released another 70,000 doses.”

Cohen said people should be mindful as they gather and travel for Thanksgiving, because those events can lead to the spread of viruses.

“I know it’s hard to miss family gatherings, but if you’re sick, please don’t spread those viruses around,” she said. “We want folks to stay home if they’re sick, get tested, get treatment, and make sure to do the things we’ve learned these last few years: Wash your hands, use masks, open that window. There’s plenty of ways to stay safe.”

Earlier in the morning, Cohen received a citation from Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman during a ceremony at his office. She was accompanied by her mother, Susan Krauthamer, a nurse practitioner who previously worked at Hempstead General Hospital and Mercy Medical Center.

Dr. John Zaso, a pediatrician in East Meadow affiliated with NUMC, said there has been an uptick in flu and RSV cases in recent weeks.

“RSV and flu are keeping us busy right now,” he said, noting most of the flu cases he sees are among children who were not vaccinated.

“This year, the match is very good — between 60 and 65%,” he said of the flu vaccine’s effectiveness to strains that are circulating. “It’s never too late to get that. The risk of hospitalization is much less if you get that vaccine.”

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