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Americans Yawn at CDC Warnings About ‘Tripledemic’ — No Surprise There.

While America’s public health officials issue one warning after another about this winter’s “tripledemic” of COVID, flu, and RSV, the American public is responding with a collective yawn — if vaccination rates are anything to go by.

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The CDC’s most recent weekly vaccination update says that “receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine is low across all socio-demographic subgroups and has consistently varied by age, race and ethnicity, poverty status, health insurance status, and urbanicity.” As of December 2, fewer than 18% of adults reported getting the updated COVID-19 vaccine since Sept. 14, and about another 15% of adults said they would “definitely” get vaccinated.

RSV — respiratory syncytial virus infection — is another one of those bugs that poses its most serious risk to the 60-and-over crowd. Although a serious RSV infection might require hospitalization, the uptake rate among the eligible 60-plus cohort is just 16%.

Vaccinations for the ordinary flu are down a bit, too. “Adult vaccination rates for influenza reached their peak for the 2020-2021 cycle,” the Washington Examiner reported on Monday, “with 50.2% of those over 18 getting vaccinated. For the 2022-2023 season, however, only 46.9% of the same population obtained their shot.” Rates are expected to be about the same or lower for the 2023-2024 flu season.

The drop isn’t huge, but the trendline is clear: Americans don’t seem to be all that worried about the flu — and aren’t concerned at all about COVID or RSV.

That’s not for any lack of effort on the part of our public health system.

The CDC began its big vaccination push over two months ago with this tragically hip tweet from CDC director Mandy Cohen.

Fetch? Retch!

Whatever your opinion about the safety or efficacy of this or that vaccine, we can all agree that seeing a 44-year-old medical doctor/public health official try to be hip is painfully cringeworthy. Besides, as any “Mean Girls” fan could tell you, “Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen! It’s not going to happen!”

Chicago health officials took a more traditional (and much less wince-inducing) approach on Monday, with Dr. Colleen Nash, associate professor of pediatrics in the division of infectious diseases at Rush University Medical Center, warning, “We’ve now been lucky enough to kind of live with COVID but still enjoy normal life and activities and things. And that is directly attributable, at least in part, to vaccinations. So I would really encourage people to do that if they haven’t already.”

While reports show that Illinois’ hospitalization rate for COVID is “ticking up,” the actual numbers aren’t anything like 2020, with an additional 1,251 COVID hospital admissions this week statewide. And yet, according to the Chicago Tribune, only about 11% of city residents are fully current on their COVID-19 vaccinations.

The CDC tried on Twitter/X again on Saturday, reminding readers, “‘Tis the season for joy and family. Now is the time to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu before you see your loved ones again.”

Visit vaccines.gov to find vaccines near you.”

The ratio, as the kids like to say, is epic.

While the replies were all over the place in tone, this one reasonable-sounding tweet captured the general sentiment.

When vaccination rates are down even for the innocuous (and generally trusted) flu shot, it’s clear that the CDC no longer enjoys the clout it used to with the American public.

On a personal note, I’ve done everything a columnist can do to keep this piece 100% evenhanded. The only strong opinion expressed here was a joking one about Dr. Cohen’s use of “fetch” in her October 4 tweet.

 

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