Niagara County Showing Higher Rates of Respiratory Illness and Lower Rates of Vaccination

Niagara County Department of Health Hosting Free Vaccination Clinics

Niagara County, NY – The Niagara County Department of Health (NCDOH) is urging residents to stay informed and take proactive measures against respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19, flu, and RSV. The current situation poses a significant threat to public health, with data indicating elevated rates of hospitalizations and a strain on healthcare systems both locally and nationwide.  Our community experiences longer wait times in medical offices, urgent care centers and emergency departments, decreased availability of hospital beds for pediatric patients and adults who are more acutely ill, increased number of respiratory illness outbreaks in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals, longer patient stays, increased rates of healthcare-associated infections, and poorer outcomes including excess deaths.

Key Points:

  • According to the CDC, rates of COVID-19- and influenza-associated hospitalizations remain elevated throughout most of the country. The rapid increase in COVID-19-associated hospitalizations has slowed, and influenza-associated hospitalizations declined in the past week. Hospitalization rates for RSV remain elevated.
  • Deaths attributed to respiratory illness in the United States represent 5% of all deaths. The percent of deaths associated with COVID-19 and influenza increased compared to the previous weeks, while RSV deaths remained stable. COVID-19 continues to cause a larger number of hospitalizations and deaths than flu and RSV combined.
  • Trends in flu data in Niagara County follow those observed across the state, with a total of 550 flu cases reported as of week ending 01/06/2024. In Niagara County, the percent of cases in adults aged 18-49 years has been increasing, accounting for 33% of all new cases for the week ending 01/06/2024.
  • The current rate of hospitalization for adults aged 18-49 statewide is 19%, contributing to an excess strain on the healthcare system. As of 01/17/2024, only 13% of hospital beds in Western New York were available (7-day average).

Vaccination against the flu, COVID-19, and RSV is especially important for those at higher risk, including young children, pregnant individuals, those with chronic health conditions, and adults 65 and older.  Vaccines can reduce the risk of flu illnesses by approximately 50% in the general population and can prevent severe symptoms and hospitalization.

NCDOH emphasizes that vaccination for those who are healthy, especially those ages 5-49 years, offers protection for themselves and others they are in contact with such as classmates, coworkers, and family members who might have a higher risk for complications from respiratory illness.

CDC recommends all people aged 6 months and older stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and receive a seasonal flu vaccine. RSV vaccination is recommended for those 60 years and older or pregnant. CDC also recommends nirsevimab, a monoclonal antibody product, for all infants younger than 8 months who are born during – or entering – their first RSV season, as well as some older babies.  

 Current Vaccination Situation:

  • The number of total flu vaccinations for all persons 6 months and older in the 2023-2024 season lags behind last year's rate at this time.
  • Only 11% of all New York residents and only 9.9% of Niagara County residents have received the updated COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Only 16.7% of New Yorkers 60 years and older have received the RSV vaccine.

“Vaccines against respiratory illnesses are the best way to protect yourself and those around you,” said Daniel J. Stapleton, Public Health Director. “Please get your flu, COVID-19, and RSV vaccines (if eligible) today to prevent the potentially severe consequences of respiratory illnesses this season, and do your part to protect our community.”

The Niagara County Department of Health offers flu and COVID-19 vaccinations at public clinics, with detail regularly shared on our website and our Facebook page. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are recommended.  For more information and registration links, please visit our upcoming clinic schedule.

Upcoming Vaccination Clinics:

  • Cornerstone Arena, Lockport: Saturday, January 20, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
  • North Tonawanda Public Library: Wednesday, January 24, 3:30 PM- 6:30 PM
  • Town of Porter Town Hall: Monday, January 29, 3:30 PM – 6:30 PM