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

In the United States as of March 3, more than 28.4 million cases of COVID-19 and over 512,000 total cumulative deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two items of public health interest are the ongoing threat of new variants and the availability of the recently approved vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

Of growing concern is the new New York variant, also known as B.1.526. The four other mutations worrying public health officials include B.1.1.7 from the U.K., B.1.351 from South Africa, P.1 from Brazil, and B.1.427/429 from California. There have been 2,672 cases of the U.K. B.1.1.7 variant identified in the U.S., 68 cases of the South African B.1.351, and 13 of Brazilian P.1. The CDC is monitoring the U.K., South African, and Brazilian strains, and the U.K. variant—by far the most prevalent—is expected to become the most dominant strain due to its greater transmissibility.

Nonetheless, it is anticipated that the virus will continue to change, leading to new variants. Of greatest concern is a specific genetic mutation (E484K) that is thought to allow the virus to escape some of the body’s immune response. The effectiveness of the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines against all of the new variants is still being assessed. The yet-to-be-approved Novavax vaccine has demonstrated the most effectiveness against the U.K. and South African variants, but no existing vaccine has demonstrated effectiveness against all variants.

Discussion and research are taking place related to modifying and improving existing vaccines and the use of additional booster vaccinations. Despite ongoing research, there is still clear evidence to support the use of the approved vaccines to provide individual protection and help bring an end to the pandemic. Along with clinicians and health care workers who’ve been vaccinated, a host of prominent figures have made their vaccinations public in an effort to reduce fear and instill confidence among the general public. They include: President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Steve Martin, Jane Fonda, Samuel Jackson, Willie Nelson, Tyler Perry, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and a host of others.

It is important to note that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the first approved single-dose vaccine, will help reduce scheduling problems associated with Moderna and Pfizer’s two-dose regimens and add to the overall arsenal of available vaccines. However, until large numbers of the population (70 percent) are vaccinated (or have natural immunity from previous infection) such that we develop herd immunity, the importance of community mitigation activities (i.e., wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and remaining at home if ill or symptomatic) in preventing infection still cannot be overstated.

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. For those who may continue to feel anxious or uneasy, please 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

Copyright © 2021 New York Institute of Technology