Message from Brian L. Harper M.D., M.P.H.
Dear New York Tech Students, Faculty, and Staff:

As of February 4, 2021, nearly 26.3 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tragically, we have seen more than 445,264 cumulative total deaths in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic—and about 22,000 more since my message a week ago. Based on questions I routinely receive, I would like to answer some that are asked most frequently:
  1. How long does the new vaccine provide protection from COVID-19? The short answer is that we do not know, given that the vaccines were recently developed and we have no long-term data. However, data from the clinical trials show that neutralizing antibodies persisted for nearly four months, with titers declining only slightly over time.
  2. Will there be a need to be vaccinated annually, like the flu vaccine? We do not know how long immunity lasts, hence there is no current recommendation for repeat vaccinations or booster vaccines. However, given the discovery of new variants, this is a distinct possibility.
  3. Will the new vaccine work against variants from the U.K., South Africa, and Brazil? This remains unknown. Pfizer and Moderna were unaware of the new strains when they were developing their vaccines. As such, the clinical trials did not assess effectiveness against these strains. Preliminary studies suggest varying amounts of protection against variants. However, the limitation of these studies is that while neutralizing antibodies are being assessed, the immune response is more complex than simply measuring antibody responses. Therefore, more clinical and epidemiological studies will be necessary. To address this concern, vaccine manufacturers are evaluating the use of boosters to cover new strains if necessary.
  4. Does the vaccine prevent the spread of the virus to others? Again, this remains unknown. There is a concern about asymptomatic colonization of the virus in those immunized, so that the virus could still spread to others. Given that up to 40 percent of asymptomatic individuals may transmit the virus, the virus may be transmitted by those who have been immunized. Further study is necessary.
  5. Is a diagnostic test still required for those who have been immunized? Based on our limited knowledge of the effects of the vaccine on asymptomatic colonization (as mentioned above), there has been no change in diagnostic testing requirements for those who have been vaccinated.
  6. Will the COVID-19 vaccine cause you to test positive on diagnostic tests? No, the vaccine will not cause a positive diagnostic PCR or antigen test. However, there is a possibility that vaccination will cause an antibody test to become positive. This is expected, as the goal of a vaccine is to develop an immune response (including the production of antibodies).
In summary, COVID-19 is still a new virus, and vaccines approved for emergency use are also new. We still need to learn more and therefore must continue to adhere to community mitigation activities (wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and remaining at home if ill or symptomatic) to prevent new infections. And, as we begin to return to campus, we must all remain vigilant and follow these preventive guidelines.

As always, the New York Tech community is welcome to make an appointment for a COVID test at the Academic Health Care Center in Long Island by calling 516.686.1300. Those who may feel anxious or uneasy can reach out to Counseling and Wellness Services at our campuses in Long Island (516.686.7683) or New York City (212.261.1773) to talk or make a virtual appointment.


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

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