New Vaccine to Test Disinterest

COVID-19 booster rates low as local cases rise 

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved an updated COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday (Sept. 12) amid low interest in recent booster shots and a rise in cases, including an outbreak in Garrison. 

Anyone 6 months and older who has not received an inoculation in the last two months is eligible for the new vaccine, according to the CDC. 

Moderna and Pfizer, the companies making the vaccine, have formulated their versions to target subvariants of the Omicron strain of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

On Tuesday, Drug World in Cold Spring was told to pull its stock of the previous booster shot in response to the CDC approval of the new vaccine, said Heidi Snyder, who owns the pharmacy. A post on Wednesday on Drug World’s Facebook page asks people if they are interested in the new shot, which the pharmacy has already ordered. 

There has been much less demand for recent booster shots than for the initial COVID vaccine. Although 76.8 percent of Putnam residents and 72.3 percent in Dutchess County received the initial shot, just 16.9 percent in Putnam and 17.9 percent in Dutchess are up-to-date with the most recent booster. 

“I’m trying to get a feel from people because I don’t know if I’m looking at thousands or hundreds” of needed doses, said Snyder. “I can’t project what the community’s going to want, and yet I feel responsible for taking care of the community.”

Since the pandemic shutdown began in March 2020, each fall and winter has been marked by a surge in cases. But measuring the extent of the seasonal uptick is more difficult in 2023 because many people are using at-home COVID tests and not reporting positive results. 

Still, the state reported on Sept. 10 that the seven-day average of positive cases per 100,000 residents was nearly six times higher than the average from July 4, when the rate had largely bottomed out for the year. 

Reported cases more than doubled in Putnam between Aug. 26 and Sept. 9, from 69 to 147, with most of the infections occurring in adults between 30 and 69 years old, the county Health Department said in a news release on Sept. 8. 

An outbreak from a “contained setting” in Garrison accounted for most of the increase, said the Health Department. The department did not provide any details about the setting or the number of people infected, but said “infection control procedures have been implemented.”

While New York State is still reporting positive tests despite the absence of at-home test results, hospitalizations are also being used to gauge the virus’ spread. Statewide, hospitals reported nearly 1,500 patients with COVID as of Wednesday, more than triple the total from June 30. 

NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital averaged seven COVID inpatients a day for the week ending on Tuesday, compared to two inpatients for the seven-day period ending on June 30, according to state data. In Newburgh, Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital has averaged nearly nine inpatients over the same period this month, compared to 1.7 a day over the last week of June. 

Despite the recent increase, hospitalizations are below the same point in 2022, when COVID patients totaled about 2,000 during the second week of September. Hospitalizations peaked last winter at 4,350 on Jan. 3. A Putnam death reported on Sept. 13 was the first since March 6. Dutchess has had 15 fatalities in the same period, but none between May 4 and Aug. 25.

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