NYC health commissioner discusses COVID-19, monkeypox, and polio ahead of winter months

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Wednesday, October 12, 2022
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NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City's health commissioner provided updates on the city's efforts to handle COVID, MPV (monkeypox) and polio amid concerns going into the winter season.

The city has now administered 360,000 bivalent COVID boosters and distributed 60 million at home COVID tests, Dr. Ashwin Vasan said at a briefing Wednesday morning.

He said he considers the COVID situation in the city good at the moment, but that could change as people come indoors and gather for the holidays.

Heading into winter, and as flu cases start to rise, the city is encouraging residents to get the bivalent COVID booster along with a flu shot.

More than 1,500 providers are offering the new bivalent booster, Vasan said, and a $3 million media campaigning about the new booster is currently running.

"I think everyone's tired of COVID," he said. "We've been dealing with this for nearly three years, and that's an understandable feeling. Eventually we will get to the point where we're treating this as the annual or seasonal vaccine that it is."

Vasan's update comes after the Biden Administration said the country doesn't have enough resources for COVID-19 testing going into the winter months.

The White House said this is due to a lack of congressional funding.

According to the CDC, 35% of Americans only have one booster and the agency has warned that if vaccinations continue at this slow pace, the nation could see a peak of more than 1,000 deaths per day this winter from COVID.

Health experts are also warning about the importance of getting COVID booster because of the possibility of another variant emerging.

On Wednesday, the FDA authorized updated COVID-19 boosters for children as young as 5, seeking to expand protection ahead of an expected winter wave.

On the monkeypox front, NYC now has the upper hand on the outbreak, Vasan said.

He praised the LGBTQ+ community for standing up and proactively protecting itself at the outset, as the city worked to overcome scarce vaccine supply and other challenges the point where it is now in a strong position in containing the disease.

Regarding polio, Vasan said while only one case of polio has so far been identified in New York, the latest wastewater results include an August sample, collected in Brooklyn and a small, adjacent part of Queens County, tested by CDC, that is genetically linked to the case previously identified in Rockland County.

He said with 12 watersheds across NYC, it's difficult tell exactly who is sick. But most people do not need a booster, since the vaccine given to people in childhood confers lifelong immunity.

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