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

As of March 18, 2021, 28.4 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 535,000 cumulative total deaths have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since the start of the pandemic.

On a positive note, while the daily numbers of deaths, hospitalizations, and new infections continue to decline, the rate of vaccinations continues to climb. There are now approximately 2.5 million vaccinations taking place daily in the U.S., and President Biden shared this week that his projected number of 100 million doses administered in his first 100 days in office has been achieved much sooner than expected.

President Biden also optimistically said that we could return to a greater state of normalcy by July 4, thereby allowing the general public to enjoy traditional outings and gatherings. More vaccines have been given to the states, and New York has opened three additional mass vaccination sites on Long Island, including one in the Old Westbury area.

Although new variants pose a potential threat to the effectiveness of vaccines, their overall effect on the spread of the virus is yet to be determined. In Hawaii, there was a report of a documented breakthrough case in a fully immunized individual (two doses of Pfizer), who became ill from the new U.K. variant B.1.1.7.

Since no vaccine (COVID or otherwise) is 100% effective, breakthrough cases are to be expected and should not cause immediate alarm. These cases are being monitored by the CDC to determine if a change in our course of action is necessary. As more people become immunized, it will become more difficult for the variants to develop and be transmitted.

In light of Women's History Month, it is important to acknowledge an ongoing need for more research on women's responses to vaccinations. Of note is that nearly all of the anaphylactic (very severe allergic) reactions to COVID-19 vaccines have occurred among women. CDC researchers have reported that all 19 individuals who experienced such a reaction to the Moderna vaccine were women. For the Pfizer vaccine, 44 of the 47 who had anaphylactic reactions were women.

This is consistent with earlier studies that have demonstrated more allergic reactions to the flu vaccine in women as well. The biological basis for the reactions may be due to hormonal differences between men and women and the influence of hormones such as estrogen and testosterone on the immune system. Estrogen, found in higher levels in women, serves to increase antibody response, and testosterone, found in higher levels in men, serve to be more immunosuppressive.

Although genuine efforts were made in the development of the new COVID vaccines to be inclusive of gender as well as race/ethnicity, this was not always the case in earlier studies on vaccines. This topic is certainly worthy of further research to assure proper vaccine dosages for both men and women.

Although over 12 percent of the U.S has been fully vaccinated and over 22 percent have been partially vaccinated, we still have to practice community mitigation activities—including wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and remaining at home if ill or symptomatic. These practices should be followed until roughly 70 percent of the population is immune in order to achieve herd immunity, when it becomes very difficult for the virus to propagate.

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 continue to 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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