A Message From New York Tech's Chief Medical Officer
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

As of December 17, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 16,756,581 cases of COVID-19 and 306,427 deaths in the United States since the start of the pandemic. If we review the case rate per 100,000 people by state, North Dakota has the highest rate (11,668 cases/100,000 people) and Vermont has the lowest (996 cases/100,000 people). New York State has a rate of 3,938 cases/100,000; New York City has 4,460 cases/100,000; and Arkansas has 6,354 cases/100,000. The ongoing concern is that cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are still generally increasing.

There continues to be significant progress in regard to vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been granted emergency use certification by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is being distributed nationwide. The Moderna coronavirus vaccine, which is on the brink of being approved, is expected to provide another 20 million doses in the U.S. before the end of the year.

It is important to note that both of these vaccines require two injections for a full antibody response. Therefore, 20 million doses will actually protect 10 million people. The dose separation period, or the time in between doses, is 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days for the Moderna vaccine. The vaccines are not interchangeable, so you must complete the series with one manufacturer. As expected, frontline health care workers are being given priority in receiving the vaccine. Many hospitals in Long Island and New York City are in receipt of the vaccines and have started administering them. The NYITCOM Academic Health Center has applied to New York State to receive the vaccine, which could arrive as soon as next week.

Reported side effects of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are similar to other vaccines and include injection site pain, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, fever, injection site swelling or redness, nausea, feeling unwell, and swollen lymph nodes. Of greatest concern are reports of severe allergic reactions. These remain rare, but anyone with a history of allergies to any vaccine should share this information with their prescribing health practitioner.

Meanwhile, to help with the public health strategy of testing, diagnosing, isolating those found to be positive, and quarantining those found to be contacts, the FDA recently granted emergency use approval for the first over-the-counter non-prescription, self-administered home testing kit: the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test. It is expected to be available in January 2021 at an estimated cost of $30. The approval marks “a major milestone in diagnostic testing for COVID-19. By authorizing a test for over-the-counter use, the FDA allows it to be sold in places like drug stores, where a patient can buy it, swab their nose, run the test, and find out their results in as little as 20 minutes,” notes FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the benefit of all the current vaccines is the prevention of COVID-19 in the individual who receives the vaccine. The duration of this protection remains unknown, so there is still a possibility that a vaccinated person can transmit the virus. Therefore, until there is more clarity and understanding, we should all continue to engage in community mitigation activities including wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and remaining at home if ill or symptomatic.

As always, the New York Tech community may make an appointment for a COVID test at the Academic Health Care Center in Long Island by calling 516.686.1300. Those who may continue to feel anxious or uneasy can reach out to Counseling and Wellness Services - Michael Schneider mschne01@nyit.edu to talk or make a virtual appointment.

Please be aware that both the Academic Health Care Center and Counseling and Wellness Services will be closed from December 24 and reopen on January 4.

Wishing you a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season.


Brian L. Harper, M.D., M.P.H.
Chief Medical Officer, NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine
Vice President, Equity & Inclusion

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