Experts Offer Guidance on Navigating
COVID and the Vaccines


Robert W. Amler, MD, MBA, FAAP, FACPM and Sherlita Amler, MD, MS

In the opinion of two experts presenting to The Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit on Tuesday, November 9th, Westchester County residents rank among the most protected in the U.S. Our progress toward herd immunity has been outstanding over the past year given the wide administration of vaccines in our area. In contrast, the unvaccinated comprise 99{e6256568ef004ae30a33ade7796972095a5096e2f9c8cb6db66cc5efcd2f2b47} of current U.S. deaths. These figures, trends, and a host of useful recommendations and data summarized the status and effects of COVID in our community among related concerns. The meeting was a webinar co-hosted by LMC Media.


Robert W. Amler, MD, MBA, FAAP, FACPM, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice and VP for Government Affairs of the NY Medical College, laid the groundwork through a slide deck showing historically how far public health has progressed over the last century in controlling the spread of disease worldwide. He stressed that the first key COVID strategy remains avoidance, by blocking the virus (e.g. masking, social distancing.) Further, getting the flu vaccine (the flu can still be deadly) is important and if you get flu-like symptoms, be sure to get tested to ensure it is not COVID. 


Regarding the COVID vaccine’s efficacy, he indicated that although symptom severity can vary, the vaccines have clearly worked extremely well as part of an overall strategy to control transmissibility. He clarified that the CDC follows many COVID variants but that the focus is on the Delta as a “variant of high consequence.” 


Dr. Amler was clear that we won’t know the exact percentage of population needed to reach group or ‘herd’ immunity until we see it. At the point of lasting protected immunity, the virus will have nowhere to go, and die. He indicated we’re likely to see additional strains of COVID for the near future at minimum, and he made no forecasts about the upcoming winter, advising us to remain vigilant. On a positive note, Dr. Amler emphasized that our county has among the highest percentage of college educated residents which he correlated with the willingness to keep informed, follow the pandemic discourse, and take actions consistent with advisories from the public health experts and officials.


Sherlita Amler, MD, MS, the Westchester County Health Commissioner since 2011, provided a range of relevant statistics for the county beginning with COVID-tracking data since Mar. 2020. The vaccine accounted for a tremendous drop-off in deaths since its introduction in Dec. 2020-Jan. 2021, especially for those ages 65+ and 75+. The vaccine is 94{e6256568ef004ae30a33ade7796972095a5096e2f9c8cb6db66cc5efcd2f2b47} effective in preventing hospitalizations for those age 65+. Further, of the 29 hospitalizations in the county as of Nov. 8th, 21 were people who hadn’t received a vaccine. She stated that when students age 12-17 are vaccinated, there will no longer be a requirement for those exposed to the COVID virus to quarantine. As of Nov. 2nd, Dr. Amler made clear that the trend toward a wider vaccinated public continues with the Emergency Use Authorization for those age 5-11. She stated that only the Pfizer vaccine for those 18+ has full FDA approval. She encouraged all age 65+ and at high risk medically or who perform a high-risk job such as working in a nursing home, hospital, or other areas of severe exposure to complete getting their shots and booster. 


For the holidays, Dr. Sherlita Amler strongly recommends we all employ multiple layers of protection and that grandparents take as many precautions as possible to minimize exposures from grandchildren. These include masking, social distancing, and double vaccinations and boosters as well as first vaccine doses for children age 5-11 administered before Thanksgiving. Testing before visiting relatives helps, as well.

Both physicians, our health commissioner and the health sciences dean, advised everyone to get the booster.  They pointed out that evidence supports the choice of having a different booster from your previous shots, though there is no evidence as to an advantage to any specific combination of shots and booster. Though no single mask was recommended, surgical masks are preferred, if available, as they afford multiple layers. However, they agreed that any mask is better than none to prevent the spread.


The Larchmont/Mamaroneck Local Summit is an informal community council that seeks to make a better life for the community by keeping it informed of major issues of concern. The next Zoom program, co-hosted by the Local Summit and LMC Media will be Tuesday, December 14th at 8:00 a.m. when newly re-elected Westchester County Executive George Latimer will join us. 


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