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Mount Sinai South Nassau “Truth in Medicine” Poll: Residents Have Little Fear of “Tridemic” Threat

Poll shows public reluctant to get vaccines, won’t adjust plans for the holidays

Posted: Dec. 7, 2022
Mount Sinai South Nassau “Truth in Medicine” Poll: Residents Have Little Fear of “Tridemic” Threat

Despite the rising rate of community transmission of flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)—and the reality that all three diseases are spreading in a “tridemic” across New York City, Long Island, and beyond—results from the latest Mount Sinai South Nassau “Truth in Medicine” Poll indicate that the public’s urgency to get vaccinated for flu and COVID-19 is low.

Fewer than two-thirds (61 percent) of 600 poll respondents have received a flu vaccine since September 1, 2022, while just 56 percent of respondents have updated their COVID-19 vaccination with a bivalent booster.

“It makes me sick” and “I never get one” are the two main reasons for those who have not had, and don’t intend to get, a flu vaccine. As for those who will not get a COVID-19 bivalent booster: they “do not believe it is safe” or they “do not believe they need it.”

“This fall and winter, the flu is highly contagious along with COVID-19 and RSV,” said Mount Sinai South Nassau President Adhi Sharma, MD. “The flu and COVID-19 vaccines have been updated, and they are safe and very effective. I strongly urge people to take action now and get vaccinated.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations, and 4,500 deaths from flu. The CDC’s latest 7-day daily average report for new hospital admissions for flu from November 23–29, 2022, was 4,201. This is a 17.6% increase from the prior 7-day average (3,572) from November 16–22, 2022.

Those who should give strong consideration to following Dr. Sharma’s advice are unvaccinated individuals, including those among the 36 percent of respondents who said they plan to attend large holiday gatherings and among the 60 percent of respondents who have minimal concern for mingling in large groups.

A study published in the April 2022 edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that the risk of COVID-19 infection was markedly higher among unvaccinated people than among vaccinated people when they mixed at gatherings, with unvaccinated people contributing to infections among those who were vaccinated at a rate higher than would have been expected based on contact numbers alone. It also found that as like-with-like mixing increased, infection rates among vaccinated people decreased from 15% to 10% and increased from 62% to 79% among unvaccinated people.

The waning urgency to get vaccinated, low public awareness of the tridemic threat, and the fact that 93 percent of the poll respondents said they are not considering any changes to their plans for the holidays is of significant concern, said Dr. Sharma.

Public awareness of the risk of a tridemic is perilously low: just 8 percent of the poll’s respondents have “heard a lot” about it, while 31 percent have “heard some,” 27 percent have “not heard much,” and 30 percent have “heard nothing.” After the tridemic was explained to uninformed poll respondents, concern remained rather low, with 5 percent saying they are very concerned and 36 percent saying they are somewhat concerned.

The CDC says it is safe to get the COVID-19 and flu vaccines together, even during the same visit to the doctor or pharmacy, although some might prefer to vaccinate at separate times to minimize the reaction.

RSV typically spreads during the fall and winter and is spreading very actively at this time in communities throughout New York and the United States. RSV is spread through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of infected people when they cough and sneeze. Typical symptoms resemble the common cold, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year old in the United States.

While there is currently no vaccine to prevent RSV infection, steps that parents can take include vaccinating children for both COVID-19 and flu and teaching them to cough and sneeze into a tissue or their elbows rather than their hands.

If you or your loved one, neighbor, or friend is 65 or older, getting vaccinated against pneumonia is a good idea, too, says Aaron E. Glatt, MD, Chair of the Department of Medicine, Chief of Infectious Diseases, and hospital epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau.

“If you have never received the ‘pneumonia vaccine’ against pneumococcal pneumonia, those 65 years or older or between the ages of 19 through 64 with underlying medical conditions or risk factors should discuss getting it with their doctors,” advises Dr. Glatt. “The CDC recommends pneumococcal vaccination for adults 65 years or older and that you discuss it with your physician at the earliest opportunity.”

Every year, more than 60,000 Americans die of pneumonia. Because pneumonia can be a complication of the flu, getting a yearly flu shot helps prevent viral influenza pneumonia as well as secondary bacterial pneumonia.
Other poll findings include:

  • Only 28 percent of respondents say they are comfortable with the idea of getting an annual COVID-19 vaccine;
  • Of those who have received a flu shot this season, 84 percent are 65 and above and 73 percent between ages 50 and 64;
  • Long Island residents are more likely to have had the flu vaccine than those in New York City.

“It would be dispiriting if we took a step backward from the gallant and determined recovery we have achieved in the wake of the pandemic,” said Linda Armyn, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Bethpage Federal Credit Union. “Bethpage together with Mount Sinai South Nassau strongly encourages our clients and customers and residents across Long Island and New York City to do their part to protect themselves, their families, and friends from getting sick with any of these viruses.”

In addition to getting vaccinated, Drs. Glatt and Sharma recommend following these standard precautions, which will also help prevent newborns or young children as well as older adults from getting RSV:

  • Wash Hands—If your hands are potentially contaminated, wash them with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
  • Masks—People at higher risk for getting serious illness should consider wearing a mask when indoors among unvaccinated people and maintain social distancing as much as possible.
  • Cover—Stop transmission by covering sneezes and coughs with a tissue or your elbow.
  • Be Considerate—If you are sick, stay home.
  • Rest—Eat healthy, stay hydrated, and get sufficient rest.
  • Moderation—Do not overindulge; stick to your normal calorie intake and avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Cleanliness—Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, including doorknobs, light switches, electronics, and counters, regularly.

This is Mount Sinai South Nassau’s 14th “Truth in Medicine” Poll and third of 2022. The poll seeks to evaluate public knowledge and sentiment toward key public health issues.

Sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the poll aims to gather data about attitudes on key public health topics and helps spur education to improve public health. The poll was conducted November 14-20 via both landlines and cell phones with 600 Long Island and New York City residents. Poll findings are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.

The “Truth in Medicine” Poll is a component of Mount Sinai South Nassau’s mission of improving education around critical public health issues. The poll was conducted by a nationally recognized, independent polling firm, LJR Custom Strategies, with offices in Washington and New Orleans. LJR has conducted more than 2,000 studies for a broad spectrum of health care, business, education, cultural, and political clients in nearly every state in the country and around the world.

Mount Sinai South Nassau began conducting the public health poll in January 2017. Previous polls have focused on mental healthcare services, holiday stress, HPV vaccine, legalization of recreational marijuana, vaccines, supplements, antibiotic use and misuse, and screen time, among others. For more information about the polls, please visit here.

About Mount Sinai South Nassau
The Long Island flagship hospital of the Mount Sinai Health System, Mount Sinai South Nassau is designated a Magnet® hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for outstanding nursing care. Mount Sinai South Nassau is one of the region’s largest hospitals, with 455 beds, more than 900 physicians and 3,500 employees. Located in Oceanside, New York, the hospital is an acute-care, not-for-profit teaching hospital that provides state-of-the-art care in cardiac, oncologic, orthopedic, bariatric, pain management, mental health, and emergency services and operates the only Trauma Center on the South Shore of Nassau County, along with Long Island’s only free-standing Emergency Department in Long Beach.

In addition to its extensive outpatient specialty centers, Mount Sinai South Nassau provides emergency and elective angioplasty, and offers Novalis Tx™ and Gamma Knife® radiosurgery technologies. Mount Sinai South Nassau operates the only Trauma Center on the South Shore of Nassau County verified by the American College of Surgeons as well as Long Island’s only free-standing, 9-1-1 receiving Emergency Department in Long Beach. Mount Sinai South Nassau also is a designated Stroke Center by the New York State Department of Health and Comprehensive Community Cancer Center by the American College of Surgeons; is an accredited center of the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Association and Quality Improvement Program; and an Infectious Diseases Society of America Antimicrobial Stewardship Center of Excellence.
For more information, go to www.mountsinai.org/southnassau.