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COVID surge continues, as vaccine effectiveness wanes

Dr. Thomas Russo
Erie County
Infectious diseases expert Dr. Thomas Russo said there is a waning of effectiveness of vaccines and the unvaccinated immunity of those who have had COVID.

COVID-19 numbers continue to surge in Erie County, with County Executive Mark Poloncarz blaming the continuing reluctance of many to get vaccinated.

During a Tuesday briefing, Poloncarz said it's across the board and reflected in the death rate, with four deaths in recent days of unvaccinated people under 40. He said the COVID wave is also reflected in hospital and ICU admissions.

"We get there with really high numbers in communities," he said. "One part of the City of Buffalo, the 14203 zip code, had the highest rate as it pertains to its population. Basically more than one out of a hundred residents in that area had caught a new COVID case. The same for East Concord in the southern part of Erie County, Eden very high, Lackawanna."

Erie County is not alone. In the week ending Nov. 27, Chautauqua County reported 707 new cases and nine deaths. Niagara County reported 1,050 new cases in the week ending Dec. 1 and 13 deaths.

Poloncarz said increasing vaccinations seem to have eased the rise in positivity, which was reaching rates not seen since the depths of the pandemic.

Infectious diseases expert Dr. Thomas Russo said there is a waning of effectiveness of vaccines and the unvaccinated immunity of those who have had COVID.

"If you were infected in the pre-Delta wave, back originally in March and April and the sort of holiday surge about almost a year ago, there's some waning of that protection and your susceptibility is increasing," Russo said. "Likewise, for those that were vaccinated early on and have only received two shots to date."

The Delta variant is still prevalent, in Western New York and Ontario. Ontario's Niagara Region virus analysis said every single new COVID case is highly infectious and transmissible Delta. Even without the Omicron variant, the Science Advisory Table is warning the province could see up to 3,000 infections per day by mid-January, including nearly 400 patients in intensive care by that point if people maintain their current behavior.

And the experts warn the impact of the new variant could be substantial -- saying Omicron could hit hard and fast.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.