I hope this letter finds you healthy during these challenging times.
As an epidemiologist with a lifelong interest in public health, this seemingly never-ending pandemic has made me feel frustrated, angry, and impatient yearning to get back to some semblance of ‘normal’. And despite the enormous advances science and medicine has made in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of COVID-19, it sometimes feels like we’re back where we started in March 2020, with the latest Omicron variant storming the country and the world.
If there is one thing I hope you take from this letter, it is that we are NOT back from where we started. We have the tools to defeat this latest variant, we will use them, and we will stay focused on our mission at EHE of health, productivity, and longevity.
The emerging evidence is pointing towards important facts: the vaccines are still effective against Omicron, but in different ways than before. While the major vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) appear to still have good effect in preventing hospitalization and death, it appears that the original two-dose regimen is less effective against infection and transmission of Omicron than the previous strains. In other words, having two doses can be life-saving, but not necessarily prevent you from getting a mild or moderate case of COVID-19, and transmitting it to someone else. However, with a booster dose the vaccine efficacy shoots back up to provide excellent coverage for infection and likely transmission.
This emerging reality should be the cornerstone of your personal prevention plan: if you haven’t been immunized, do so, and if you haven’t been boostered, do so! This is particularly important sooner rather than later, especially if you live in dense international cities like New York, where the Omicron variant is already off and running.
For our part at EHE, we have operated with a mandatory vaccine policy for all employees since the summer, and have just added the booster as a part of that mandate. This week we launched an aggressive internal campaign to achieve 100% participation in our booster program by Christmas. And of course, we continue to follow our strict program of clinical exposure history and masking for all employees and patients. Finally, we are offering all of our clinic employees and patients seen at our clinics free rapid antigen testing kits for home use for themselves and their families.
I would be remiss if I didn’t end this letter with a sad anecdote, which I am sure many of you have heard from newspapers, television, and other media. One of the unmeasured consequences of this pandemic has been the postponement by so many of routine preventive health care. The result has been rising emergency room visits and hospital admissions for preventable conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The good news is that preventing disease is what we live for at EHE – our facilities are safe, our staff and partners are welcoming, and we will help you to get back on a path of health, productivity, and longevity.
All best for a safe and healthy holiday season and new year.
David Levy, M.D.
CEO, EHE Health