Hochul urges New Yorkers to get new vaccine: What to know

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Gov. Hochul on Wednesday urged New Yorkers to get a potent new COVID vaccine due to hit pharmacies later this week, delivering a familiar call with virus hospital admissions once again rising statewide.

Hochul said a modest summer surge in hospitalizations does not mean that the “bad old days” of the pandemic are back, but that the freshly approved shots are the best tool available to prevent infections that still kill older adults.

“I know everyone wants to be done with COVID, but COVID is not done with us,” Hochul, a Democrat, said at a news conference in Midtown Manhattan.

As Americans have tired of the pandemic, vaccination rates have slumped with successive shot rollouts, maddening public health officials.

“Here’s the simple message, New Yorkers: Get the vaccine,” Hochul said. “We’re smart. We’re resilient. We protect each other.”

When does the vaccine arrive?

The governor said the updated doses were on their way to New York, and would arrive at drug stores by the end of the week.

The vaccine is formulated to attack the highly transmissible omicron XBB.1.5 variant, which is closely related to an estimated 90% of currently circulating COVID viruses, the governor’s office said.

The shot is set to be available at local pharmacies and at the doctor’s office, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Who can get it?

The CDC advised Tuesday that Americans age 6 months or older get updated jabs from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

A single shot is recommended for Americans who have already been immunized, according to the governor’s office. Those who have never received a jab can receive two shots.

“I will be getting my vaccine very soon,” said the twice-boosted Hochul, 65. “You only need one — no more double doses.”

She told New Yorkers, who may be wary of the fleeting symptoms of the lifesaving shots, not to simply get a new jab for themselves, but to support those who are at higher risk.

Uninsured Americans can get the shots under two programs: the Bridge Access Program for adults and Vaccines for Children Program, according to the CDC.

What is the status of COVID rates in New York?

About 68% of new COVID hospital cases in the state strike New Yorkers age 65 and older, and 9 in 10 COVID deaths now involve people age 60 and up, according to the governor’s office.

New York is logging more than three times as many COVID hospitalizations as it was in early July, according to state data, but the rate is nowhere near its brutal omicron peak in winter 2022.

The state’s caseload is around 5% of where it stood at the end of 2021, according to government figures, though case rates appear increasingly unreliable due to limited test reporting.

Health officials are tracking the new BA.2.86 variant, called Pirola, that has raised concern due to the constellation of mutations it carries on its spike protein.

Pirola has been cropping up across the U.S., and was identified in New York City sewage, according to the city Health Department.

The city’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, said the variant’s mutations may make it more contagious, but there does not appear to be evidence that it is more virulent.

“While we have yet to find it in a specimen from a local resident, it is almost certainly circulating here,” Vasan said in a statement two weeks ago.

He added that early indicators suggest the new shots would be effective in stopping the Pirola strain from causing severe illness and death.

Since COVID first arrived in New York more than three years ago, the state’s overall coronavirus death toll has climbed above 80,000.

“But everything has changed,” Hochul said Wednesday, reminding New Yorkers that they have the tools to stay safe. “We are in a very, very different place.”

With Josephine Stratman