The Covid-19 vaccine

The current Covid vaccines available in the US are produced by Pfizer and Moderna pharmaceuticals. These MRNA vaccines produce spike proteins to which our bodies build immunoglobulins(IgG) to help prevent getting the Covid virus. These are not live vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine needs a booster 3 weeks after the first dose. The Moderna vaccines booster is given 4 weeks later.

Common side effects include pain at the injection site, headaches, fatigue and low grade fever. These symptoms are mild and short lived and commonly seen with many vaccines. Having underlying food and medication allergies are not risk factors for the Covid vaccine. A history of a severe allergic reactions(anaphylaxis) to previous vaccines maybe a contraindication to getting the Covid vaccine. A preservative polyethylene glycol(PEG) sensitivity maybe responsible for these reactions. The Covid vaccine does not contain Thimerasol or eggs similar to other vaccines. Patients with underlying diseases such as allergies, asthma, diabetes and hypertension will tolerate these vaccine without concern.

Patients on topical corticosteroids for allergies, asthma and eczema much like patients on biological therapy with Cinqair, Dupixent, Fasenra, Nucala and Xolair do well with the Covid vaccines. Any patient on chemotherapeutic or immunosuppressant therapy should review safety with their primary care physicians or their Oncologist prior to receiving this vaccine. We look forward to vaccinating patients in our office in the near future when we have obtained the vaccine from NYS.


Our entire staff would like to welcome Dr Cumella’s patients to our practice. We will doing our very best to uphold the high quality of care that you or your families have received in his office. Dr Cumella and I have been colleagues and close friends for my entire professional career. I believe we share a similar approach of being a good listener and treating patients with the most up to date medical knowledge.
If you or any of your family members would like to join our practice, please call to schedule an appointment. During this time of the Corona pandemic, Dr Mavissakalian and I will be seeing patients by Telemedicine. This can be arranged through our secretarial staff. We will have access to your records with Dr. Cumella, however these will not be opened until you sign our forms allowing us to do so. We take all insurances including HMO medicaid, except we do not take straight NYS Medicaid. We will provide prescription refills only after your initial evaluation.
Our practice specializes in Allergies, Asthma, Atopic dermatitis(eczema), Urticaria(hives) and Angioedema(swelling), Immune deficiency with Recurrent infections as well as Food, Medication and Insect allergy. We are the only practice in WNY currently doing Oral Immunotherapy(OIT) for peanuts, tree nuts, milk and eggs. Future plans include sesame, soy and wheat.
We wish good health to our current and future patients and look forward to a time when we can practice medicine safely.


DUPILUMAB(DUPIXENT) has been approved for moderate to severe atopic dermatitis. This drug is an Interleukin(IL)-4 inhibitor. These patients have failed topical aggressive moisturizers,corticosteroids and  immunomodulators(Elidel/Protopic). Eligible patients are >18years of age and have had an insurance prior approval. This subcutaneous injection is initially given at 600mg, then 300mg every 2 wks. The 1ST dose is administered in our office and subsequent dosages are self injected at home. Contraindications include allergic reactions to any of the ingredients in Dupixent. No live vaccines should be administered when patients are on this medication. It is also not approved for pregnancy/breastfeeding. The most common side effects include site reactions and inflammation/redness of the eyes and eyelids. Dr Rockoff and his staff will determine which patients are eligible for this new monoclonal therapy.

Omalizumab(Xolair) therapy for Chronic Urticaria/Hives

Omalizumab(Xolair) has been approved for >12 year olds with chronic idiopathic urticaria(hives). These patients have failed multiple H1 antihistamines(ie. Atarax, Benadryl, Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec and Xyzal) and H2 antihistamines(ie. Pepcid, Tagamet and Zantac) combinations. H1 antihistamines block ~80% of our itch receptors, where H2 block ~20%. When treatment failure occurs despite H1/H2 therapy we will attempt additional medications which include montelukast and aggressive systemic corticosteroids. Common triggers for hives includes underlying infections, foods , medication and stress. Labs are drawn to rule out other potential triggers. When all triggers are eliminated patients are classified as having idiopathic hives. This patients may then be eligible for Xolair therapy. After insurance prior authorization is approved our patients are started on 150-300mg subcutaneously every 4 weeks. Most patients show a clinical response within the 1ST 2-3 dosages.


Omalizumab(Xolair) has been approved for moderate-severe asthma in patients >6 years of age. This drug binds free serum IgE in allergic asthma patients that have failed aggressive therapy. This includes inhaled corticosteroids, short and long acting bronchodilators, anticholinergics, montelukast and frequent bursts of systemic corticosteroids. Xolair is given subcutaneously in our office every 2-4 weeks. The dose and interval depends on the patient’s weight and IgE level.

IN 2017, 3 new biologic monoclonal antibodies became available to treat moderate to severe persistent asthma. They all target Interleukin-5(IL-5) as inhibitors to decrease production of an inflammatory white blood cell called eosinophils.
1. Mepolizumab(Nucala) was approved for >12 years of age in patients with peripheral eosinophil counts > 150mg/dL. Patients are given 100mg subcutaneously in our office every 4 weeks. (See previous blog from Feb/’17).
2. Reslizumab(Cinqair) was the 2nd IL-5 inhibitor approved for >18 year old asthmatics by the FDA in 2017. A peripheral eosinophilic count of >400mg/dL is required. This drug is given at 3mg/kg IV every 4 weeks. We use Dent Infusion center for administration of this drug.
3. Benralizumab(Fasenra) was the latest IL-5 inhibitors approved. This drug targets the IL-5 receptor and is also given subcutaneously in >12 year old asthmatics. The dosage is 30mg every 4 weeks x 3, then every 8 weeks. It is also given in our office.

Dr Rockoff and his staff will determine which patients are eligible for IL-5 inhibitor therapy. Side effects are rare, but reported. All patients receiving these meds will be given epinephrine injectors for potential anaphylactic reactions. All side effects and appropriate therapy will be reviewed prior to initiating monoclonal therapy. Prior authorization from the patient’s insurance is also mandatory. Significant clinical improvements including decrease asthma flares, nocturnal awakenings, use of rescue and systemic corticosteroids should be seen within 6-12 months. Many of our patients have seen a tremendous improvement within the 1st 3 injections. The future of IL-5 inhibition may also include treating nasal polyps and other eosinophilic diseases such as eosinophil esophagitis.


Early Peanut Introduction

Recent data from Israel showed a much lower incidence of Israeli children developing peanut allergy than here in the US. Further research revealed their infants were fed peanut products much earlier in life. Studies now confirm when peanut products are ingested by 6 months of age, these children are much less prone to develop peanut allergies. Patients with egg allergies and severe eczema are high risk for peanut allergy. These children should have peanut skin tests and/or a blood test(Immunocap RAST) to determine if they are allergic. If their test are negative, peanuts should be introduced between 4-6 months of age. Mild to moderate eczema patients should have peanuts introduced by 6 months after a few solids(cereals/fruits and vegetables) have been tolerated. We recommend using Bamba which is a peanut containing puff. Some practices use peanut butter mixed with milk(breast or formula) or hot water. We do not recommend direct peanut butter or actual peanuts because of obvious choking potential. Avoid peanut introduction to patients who are sick.
With the above knowledge we can hopefully look forward to reversing the surging trend towards increase peanut allergies in young children especially over the past 2 decades.
More to come…. JR


Nucala (mepolizumab) is a new drug used as an anti-Interleukin 5(IL-5) therapy for severe persistent asthma. It targets eosinophils which are major inflammatory cells in our bodies contributing to asthma and asthma flareups.

Nucala is approved for 12 years of age and above. It is not indicated for relief of bronchospasm during an asthma exacerbation. It is also not indicated for other eosinophilic diseases such as Allergic Rhinitis, Nasal Polyps, Gastroesophageal diseases, Hypereosinophilia, etc.

Patients must meet certain criteria to have this drug prior approved by their insurance. Documentation of multiple asthma flares despite compliance with a maintenance high dose inhaled corticosteroid as well as adjunct therapy including oral/systemic steroid bursts must be reported. Pre-therapy CBC/Differential labs must show a total eosinophilic count of >150.

The approved dose of Nucala is 100mg subcutaneously every 4 weeks. It is given in our office under supervision of our staff. Patients are observed for 1 hour after their first injection and 30 minutes after each subsequent injection. Beneficial clinical responses with decreased asthma flares, use of rescue inhalers, ER/Hospital visits and Prednisone bursts should be noted within a few months. However, some studies suggest 6-12 month trials before noted benefit is seen.

Common side effects include local site reactions with redness, itching and swelling. Headaches, back pain, fatigue and itchy(non site ) reactions have been less commonly noted. Rare systemic reactions have also been reported. All patients are given and trained on use of either Epipen, Auvi-Q or Adrenaclick which should be carried for 24 hours after each injection.

Whether patients are candidates for Nucala(mepolizumab), Cinqair(Reslizumab) or Xolair(Omalizumab) should be discussed with Dr Rockoff.

Eosinophilic Esophagitis(EOE)

Eosinophilic Esophagitis(EOE) is a condition where eosinophils (allergic/inflammatory cells) appear in the esophagus of patients. These cells are normally found in the eyes and nose especially in patients with allergies, in the lungs in patients with asthma, on the skin in patients with atopic dermatitis(eczema) and in the gastrointestinal tract from the stomach down to the lower intestines. These cell can also appear in patient that are healthy without any atopic disease. Eosinophils are not normal when found in the esophagus. The etiology(cause) of EOE is currently unknown.

EOE will occasionally run in families and can present in pediatrics as well as adults. Children will often experience recurrent nausea and vomiting, abdominal pains and feeding problems especially refusing to eat solid foods. Adolescents and adults usually present with a history of dysphagia(trouble swallowing) especially solid foods. They will also report food getting stuck, heartburn as well as abdominal or chest pains.

This condition can be diagnosed by Gastroenterologist(GI specialist) after endoscopy where biopsies of esophageal inflamed tissue reveal eosinophils.

Treatment involves a very strict diet and medications. EOE patients should avoid 4 common foods: eggs/milk/soy and gluten(barley/oats/rye and wheat). There are some reports that show that peanuts/tree nuts and shellfish may also promote eosinophils in certain patients. An initial diet avoiding all these foods can be very challenging, but lead to significant improvement in patient’s symptoms. A repeat endoscopy should reveal decreasing eosinophils if patient’s comply with this diet. Nuts and shellfish may be added back into the diet slowly after several months of improvement if the re-introduction does not result in increasing symptoms and/or increasing eosinophils on repeat biopsies.

Medications include proton pump inhibitors(PIP’s) such as: Prilosec (Omeprazole), Prevacid (Lansoprazole), Nexium( Esomeprazole), Aciphex( Rabeprazole), Dexilant (Dexlansoprazole), Protonix (pantoprazole) and Zegerid(Omeprazole/sodium bicarbonate). PPI’s are usually given to patients with gastroesophageal reflux qd(daily), however in EOE these meds are started bid(2x/day). Inhaled corticosteroids are also used. Flovent 220 and more recently budesonide are also swallowed bid, not inhaled. These meds provide topical anti-inflammatory effects.

Complications include anemia,weight loss and fatigue from poor caloric content as well as gastrointestinal strictures just to name a few. The differential diagnoses includes true food allergies, food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome(FPIES),celiac disease and many other GI diagnoses. Your primary care, allergist and gastroenterologist should all work together with these patients and their families to provide a better outcome.

Differential Diagnosis for Hoarseness

Common acute causes of hoarseness include: voice abuse (especially after cheering for your favorite team) and as part of a viral infection (laryngitis). Both of these cases will resolve within a few days or weeks. Chronic hoarseness may be caused by the following:

#1. Chronic voice abuse (children or adults who abuse their vocal cords).
#2. Recurrent sinusitis with thick purulent post nasal drip.
#3. Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) where gastric acid irritates the vocal cords.
#4. Anatomic: most lesions are benign(nodules/cysts/polyps), malignancies are rare.
#5. Inhaled corticosteroid to treat asthma may cause vocal cord myopathy(weakness).
#6. Trauma: from neck injury or post intubation during surgery(vc paralysis).

A good medical history will help decipher which of the above etiologies may be the cause. Flexible Fiberoptic Rhinoscopy can be performed in our office to determine whether further work ups are necessary. An otolaryngologist (ENT) evaluation and potential voice therapy may be indicated.