Westchester County officials underscore safety of Covid-19 vaccine in virtual address


County Executive George Latimer. Source: File Photo.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer and two of his top health officials Thursday unscored the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Latimer, Commissioner of Health Dr. Sherlita Almer and Director of Disease Control Dr. Dial Hewlett Jr held a conversation on the distribution of the vaccine in the county.

To begin the conference, Almer outlined the value of the vaccine in controlling the spread of Covid-19. “The most important tool we have right now to get back to life as we knew it before (Covid-19) is a vaccine,” she said. Almer said vaccine distribution will be a slow process and the wearing of facial coverings and social distancing should still continue. 

To comment on the safety of the vaccine, Hewlett referred to the extended clinical vaccine studies done using 40,000 individuals with close side-effect monitoring. He pointed to the American Committee on Immunization Practices and the United States Food and Drug Administration’s review of all vaccine data. “We are convinced that these vaccines are safe,” he said. 

Hewlett also responded to concerns with how fast the vaccine was released. “The technology that is available to us was not available to us many years ago,” he said. “I know that people are concerned with how quickly this occurred, but I think it’s a tribute to the level of science that we now have.”

Latimer later announced Westchester County received an allocation of vaccines to be given to workers that come in direct contact with potential Covid-19 patients. Following this distribution, vaccines will be given to all other essential workers, senior citizens, and finally, the general public. (Since last week’s online conversation, New York State announced anyone over 65 can get the shot.) Westchester County is using the Moderna vaccine, which will be administered following New York state guidelines. 

“Until we know how much product is going to go from the federal level to the state, our job as county officials is to organize the groups of people that have to be vaccinated so it can be done efficiently and quickly,” Latimer said. “We know that we need to make these things as available and in as many convenient geographic locations as we can.”

Almer said that those under 18 can’t get vaccinated due to a lack of clinical studies on that age group. As a consequence, she underlined the importance of vaccinations for all caregivers.

The time period from Thanksgiving Day to New Years Day contained 165 Covid-19 deaths in Westchester County, a number that, earlier in the year, took from late May to late October to reach.

“We need to continue to do the social distancing, the mask wearing, not congregating in big groups,” Almer said. “It really boils down to personal responsibility.”

County residents were encouraged to contact the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Immunization at [email protected] with questions.