New York City is beginning to see the "real world" effect of COVID-19 vaccines.
COVID-19 hospitalizations among senior citizens have dropped by 51% since mid-January, NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Choskhi said Wednesday. The drop is nearly twice the reduction in hospitalizations among New Yorkers younger than 65, which has decreased by 29%.
Chokshi pointed to COVID-19 vaccines, which were prioritized for older people through senior center programs and age requirements to reach the most vulnerable in the early days of the vaccine rollout. Over 61% of older adults have received at least one shot.
“The vaccines are life-saving, and here in New York City, we are starting to see them have the real world benefit that has been observed in Israel, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere,” Chokshi said during a press briefing on Wednesday. Israel’s early and robust rollout meant nearly all of its oldest citizens had been fully vaccinated by mid-March. The nation witnessed a rapid decline in cases, first among older groups but then into children who haven’t been vaccinated, according to numbers compiled by Our World In Data.
“What’s been proven now very, very clearly is the power of this vaccine to protect our seniors—to protect everyone—but particularly those who are most vulnerable,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters.
Daily hospitalization admissions dropped to 174 patients among New York City patients with COVID-like symptoms, according to the mayor’s daily indicators. The hospitalization rate is 2.99 per 100,000 people over a seven-day average, also shifting downward, the mayor said. “This is striking, again, this picks up on what Commissioner Chokshi was saying. This is the lowest I’ve seen in quite a while,” de Blasio said.
This decline has persisted since early February, even though daily cases have remained stubbornly high, ranging between 3,000 and 4,000 for nearly two months. City health officials blame more infectious variants spreading around the five boroughs. But since the first week of April, the daily caseload also appears to be ticking downwards, according to city data, though the last seven days' worth of stats is provisional.
The good news about dropping hospitalization rates among seniors comes a day after federal health authorities advised states to halt the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to rare adverse effects. As a result, the vaccine campaign for homebound residents is on hold until at least Sunday, though Chokshi said the city is working to arrange transportation to vaccine sites. The health department said Tuesday that it would postpone 1,500 homebound appointments.
The mayor also announced Wednesday that he would launch a 5-year Community Care Plan to add 25 senior centers across the city, with $50 million in funding. The Department for the Aging Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez said 125,000 older adults living at home have independently reached out for assistance during the pandemic. They’ll be incorporated into the plan, she said.