NEW YORK CITY — As the number of positive coronavirus cases continues to surge at alarming rates both locally and throughout the United States, New Yorkers have managed — at least for now — to keep flu infection numbers relatively low this year thanks to the number of residents who have been vaccinated, city officials said.
According to the New York State Department of Health’s weekly flu tracker, New York City registered 27 positive cases of the flu over the past week. The limited number of cases comes a week after city health officials announced that flu vaccinations are up 37 percent among adults 19 years and older (an increase of 189,017) and an increase of 27 percent (105,881) children between the age of 6 months and 18 years old from this time a year ago.
So far this year, more than 1.2 million New Yorkers have received this year’s flu vaccine, according to data from the citywide immunization registry. The data accounts for those who have received the vaccine between July 1 and Oct. 24 as city health officials push for a historic flu campaign this season.
The surge in vaccines come at a time when a second wave of the coronavirus has started to set in in a year already dominated by the global pandemic that has killed more than 230,000 Americans. So while health officials await arrival for a vaccine for the coronavirus, city health officials are stressing the need for New Yorkers to take care of themselves although medical experts believe flu season may be impacted positively because some of the safeguards being taken because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“This year could be the most important flu vaccine you ever get,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokski said last week. “Now is the perfect time to get the vaccine if you haven’t yet. Our friends, families and neighbors are counting on all of us to help keep each other safe.”
According to city health officials, medical professionals remain cautiously optimistic by trends emerging out of the Southern Hemisphere. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s senior health advisor, Dr. Jay Varma, experts believe that the flu season has been dramatically reduced by precautions being taken because of the coronavirus pandemic, including social distancing and the wearing of face-coverings, Varma said.
Yet, at a time when de Blasio said there is reason for concern as New York sees another wave of the coronavirus and as local residents prepare to spend more time indoors because of the oncoming winter season, city health experts are stressing the need for residents to be vaccinated for the flu.
On Friday, de Blasio highlighted data that indicates that New York’s new COVID-19 cases have risen above 550 cases nine times since late October. While the city managed to remain well below that level for several months as de Blasio cautiously allowed for areas of the city to reopen, the Mayor is now bracing for a stretch where high number of cases could raise red flags about the virus’ longevity.
"That's a problem, that's a problem,” de Blasio said of the recent spike during a Friday radio interview. “That says that we are now really threatened with a second wave in New York City if we don't quickly get a handle on this."
With that being the case, health officials are urging all residents to get vaccinated, especially those over the age of 50. Residents over age 65 should receive one of the two flu vaccines that are designed for people of this age group, which medical experts said strongly reduces the chance of being infected with influenza.
According to medical experts, flu season usually starts in the late fall and lasts throughout the spring. Since influenza activity can be unpredictable and influenza viruses can be found year-round, it is important to get the vaccine as early as possible. A flu vaccine is necessary each year because the vaccine provides protection for only one season. This year’s flu vaccine contains four virus strains, three of which are new this year.
“Influenza can be deadly, and the best protection is to get the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is safe and effective,” Assistant Commissioner for the Bureau of Immunization, Dr. Jane R. Zucker said last week.