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Second informative webinar in series addresses COVID-19 vaccines, immunology

| Tuesday, October 13, 2020

ThinkND and the Eck Institute for Global Helath presented their second webinar of the series “Consider This! Simplifying the COVID-19 Conversation” Monday. This session was titled “Vaccines and the Immunology of COVID-19,” and covered COVID-19 vaccines, the clinical trial process and immunity. The goal of the series is to fight against common misconceptions about COVID-19.

Monday’s webinar hosted two speakers: Brian Baker, Rev. John A. Zahm professor and department chair of chemistry and biochemistry, and Jeffrey Schorey, George B. Craig Jr. professor in the department of biological sciences. 

To begin, co-hosts Mary Ann McDowell, an associate professor of biological sciences and a member of the Eck Institute for Global Health, and Heidi Beidinger-Burnett, director of the Eck Institute for Global Health and president of the St. Joseph County Board of Health, answered a question emailed to them by a student in regards to last week’s session, and addressed local news concerning the pandemic.

Viewers were informed that COVID-19 cases are currently rising in St. Joseph County, and Indiana set a new state record of new COVID-19 cases in a day on Saturday, with 1,945 reported new cases. 

Schorey and Baker then explained the national news surrounding President Donald Trump’s claim that he will utilize emergency-use authorization (E.U.A.) to speed up the U.S.’s COVID-19 response

To describe the E.U.A., Schorey used the analogy of a fast pass at an amusement park. Usually, companies must wait in line to get their vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but the E.U.A. serves as a kind of “fast pass.” 

Next, on the segment McDowell and Beidinger-Burnett call “Rumor Has It,” Schorey and Baker spoke to the claim that once an individual contracts COVID-19, they are immune for 90 days. 

Schorey and Baker said it is too early to tell how long immunity will last, as well as to what extent it will protect recovered COVID-19 survivors. 

With that being said, Baker believes there will be long-lasting immunity from COVID-19. Schorey said similarities between the current COVID-19 virus and the SARS-CoV-1 virus give us hope there will be fairly good immunity developed from COVID-19, just as there was from SARS-CoV-1. 

In regards to immunity, Schorey and Baker emphasized there are differences in people’s immune responses. Schorey said he would expect a stronger immune response from people who naturally got COVID-19 and recovered, than from those who were vaccinated. 

The phases of vaccine development were then discussed by the speakers. First, the preclinical phase is conducted, which consists of animal testing. Next are Phases I and II, which test the vaccine with humans with special attention given to safety. Then, in Phase III, the vaccine is given to a large number of people to test for efficacy. Lastly, Phase IV consists of the deliverance of the vaccine to the public. 

It is important that a high volume of people receive the vaccine in Phase III to account for varying immune responses from different populations of people, the speakers said. 

Throughout the session, the audience submitted questions, which Schorey and Baker answered. Additionally, all are welcome to email additional questions to [email protected]

“Consider This!” airs live every week on Monday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m. Each session addresses a new topic related to COVID-19. Next week’s session is titled “Masks, Distancing and Public Health,” and registration for the webinars can be found under the Eck Institute for Global Health’s website

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