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News & Media

WNY COVID Working Group: Be Critical of Social Media, Wear a Mask, and Get the Vaccine

Released: 9/9/2021 8:51:00 AM

The WNY COVID Working Group - a group of more than 40 healthcare and health-related organizations - released information on September 4 about social media, masking and vaccination.

These organizations and the individuals signing below say the following message is correct and reliable. Social
media posts may be incorrect. Find reliable, science-based information sources, such as the CDC.
  • We are experiencing a high number of COVID-19 cases in the region. You should wear a mask in indoor public places, even if you are fully vaccinated. Please wear a mask in outdoor settings if it is crowded or you expect close contact with others.
  • Wearing a mask will protect you. It will protect people around you. And the more people who do it, the more we protect the community. This is similar to littering. If one person litters, no one notices the impact. If many people litter, it creates a problem for everyone.
  • The risks of the vaccine are far lower than the risks of COVID-19. Please get a vaccine. Even if you are healthy, it is best not to get the COVID-19 infection, because you can spread it to vulnerable people without knowing.
  • 92% of recent COVID-19 deaths in Erie County are in people who are not fully vaccinated.
  • There is evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines are SAFE during pregnancy. Infection with the COVID-19 virus during pregnancy can cause poor outcomes for moms and newborns. One study showed if a mother gives birth while infected with COVID-19, they have a 5 times elevated risk of dying.
  • There is NO evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility. However, the COVID-19 infection CAN affect future fertility.
  • You are not protected by your racial, ethnic or age group. COVID-19 is not like influenza. It is 10 times more fatal.
Why get a COVID-19 vaccine if we still have to wear masks and practice social distancing?
We must use every tool available to control the pandemic. Each tool contributes toward “flattening the curve” and reducing, for example, the number of critically ill patients.

Why should I get the vaccine when people who are vaccinated can still get COVID-19?
The COVID-19 vaccines were designed to prevent serious infection, hospitalization, and death. All of the current US vaccines provide very strong protection against all of these outcomes, with protection against hospitalization and death greater than 90%. Most vaccinated people who do get COVID have either no symptoms or very mild symptoms and are much less likely to be hospitalized or die.

How do we know the vaccines are safe in the long term?
In the history of vaccine research, most vaccine side effects appear within a few weeks and almost all appear within six months. We now have data for well beyond six months for people who have received the COVID-19 vaccines, and it continues to show they are extremely safe. More than 360 million doses have been given in the US. At no point were shortcuts taken or safety compromised.


Rajinder Bajwa, MD, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center
Gale Burstein, MD, MPH, Erie County Department of Health

Richard A. Carlson, Jr., MD, Primary Care IPA
Richard Charles, MD, General Physician, PC
Joe Chow, MD, Immediate Care
Tyler Connine, MD, UB Emergency Medicine Residency
Anne Constantino, MS, Horizon Corporations
Charlotte Crawford, RN, MSN, MBA, Lake Plains Community Health Network 
Tanvir Dara, MD, WellNow Urgent Care
Kathleen Dyson, MD, Community Pediatric Associates of WNY
Aimana ElBahtity, Esq., Medical Society of Erie County
John Fudyma, MD, MPH, Latus Medical Care
Ken Garbarino, MD, Family Choice of New York
Kevin Gibbons, MD, UBMD
Kathleen Grisanti, MD, Pediatric and Adolescent Urgent Care of WNY
Karen L. Hall, EdD, Population Health Collaborative
Ed Heidelberger, MD, PhD, Bertrand Chaffee Hospital
Donna Kahm, SPHR, Southern Tier Health Care System 
Allana Krolikowski, MD, Jericho Road
Jeffrey Lackner, PsyD, UB Division of Behavioral Medicine
Michael K. Landi, MD, Invision Health
Charlene Ludlow, RN, MHA, Erie County Medical Center
James C. Matteliano, DDS, Eighth District Dental Society
Jason Matuszak, MD, Excelsior Orthopaedics
Mike Merrill, MD, Independent Health
Jennifer McVige, MD, Dent Neurologic Institute
Jamie Nadler, MD, Kaleida Health
Margaret Paroski, MD, MMM, Catholic Medical Partners
Sucharita Paul, MD, MPH, UBMD Emergency Medicine
Mark F. Perry, MD, Highmark BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York
John Sellick, DO, MS, VA Western New York Healthcare System
Samuel Shatkin, MD, Aesthetic Associates Center
Kevin Shiley, MD, Catholic Health
David Spagnolo, Kalos Health
Stephen Turkovich, MD, Oishei Children’s Hospital
Willie Underwood, MD, MSc, MPH, Buffalo Center for Health Equity
Raul Vazquez, MD, Urban Family Practice
Andrea J. Wanat, MA, Value Network IPA
Marty Wesolowski, DO, MBA, Martin's Point Healthcare
Joyce Zmuda, MD, Optimum Physician Alliance


The ILI/COVID Working Group of Western New York was formed in response to local variation in approach to the diagnosis and treatment of Influenza-Like-Illness and COVID-19 in the region. It is a collaborative effort of hospital systems, academic departments, independent practice associations, and insurers. The logos and signatures on this document represent the organizations’ support of this statement.

For previous statements and information from the WNY COVID-19 Work Group, visit