COVID-19 cases are increasing in areas of the city that are seeing low vaccination rates. Coupled with growing concern about the delta variant, health officials are fearful the spread could cause pocket outbreaks.
According to the City’s Health Department, the new daily average of positive COVID-19 cases is up 32%. During his daily press briefing on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the seven-day rolling average of people testing positive for COVID-19 is 1.28%. A month ago the average was 0.59%.
Neighborhoods, including Far Rockaway, Queens, and Crown Heights and Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn, are seeing vaccination rates as low as 32%. In total, 9.6 million vaccinations have been administered in New York City with 30% of Black New Yorkers being fully vaccinated and 33% receiving one dose.
“We’ve got to reach more people and we’ve got to figure out what’s going to move them. I do think time has helped for a lot of people,” de Blasio said. “I think incentives have helped for some people. I think making it convenient is help for some people. But I think we’ve got to keep, especially within agencies, redoubling our efforts, because every single additional vaccination matters.”
Dr. Kitaw Demissie of SUNY Downstate Health Science University said that the delta variant is of major concern because it’s more transmissible. Vaccines are about 65% effective against the delta variant preventing hospitalizations and death. He says neighborhoods with low vaccination rates could see pockets of COVID-19 outbreaks.
“I think with the delta variant, vaccinated people should not be really too concerned,” Demissie said. “Even if they catch the disease, it will not really be severe enough to cause them to be hospitalized or kill them. In terms of mask wearing and [social] distancing, the concern is not for vaccinated people. The concern is actually for those people who are not vaccinated because they can die and they can be hospitalized.”
Reports indicate that the lambda variant is now a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization. The variant was first seen last year in Peru, where it is the dominant strain. The lambda variant is in 29 countries, including the U.S. Experts say the variant is not of major concern at this time in the U.S and preliminary studies show that vaccines are effective against it.
Vaccine hesitancy grew further this week after news that the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine raises the risk of a rare neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barré syndrome. The syndrome can cause the immune system to attack nerves resulting in paralysis. Around 100 cases have been reported out of the over 12 million J&J vaccine doses given.
The Food and Drug Administration is adding a new warning about the J&J vaccine and the risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome.
“Although the available evidence suggests an association between the Janssen vaccine and increased risk of GBS, it is insufficient to establish a causal relationship,” the FDA said in a statement this week. “FDA continues to work with its partner in vaccine safety surveillance, the CDC, to monitor reports of GBS following vaccination with the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.”