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SCC Hosts COVID-19 Vaccine Panel of Experts
St. Charles Community College faculty members came together on April 21 to host a panel discussion about the COVID-19 vaccine. Along with special guest Sara Evers, St. Charles County assistant public health director, the group presented information about the history of vaccines, vaccine development and general information about COVID-19. Watch the video below.
“When no one is immunized disease can spread through the population,” explained Amy Koehler, SCC-Dardenne Creek Campus Provost and former nursing faculty. “When most of the population is immunized, spread of the disease can be constrained. This is why we need everyone to get a vaccine. It’s not just an individual decision – it’s a social decision. It’s about keeping our entire community safe and healthy.”
History proves it, said Steve Randoll, SCC history professor. He pointed out that vaccines have saved millions of lives. "Vaccinations have been very successful in eradicating many diseases around the world," he said. "When we have a public health problem today, what do we do? We take social distancing steps, we wear masks, and we work on a vaccine. That’s true in the past and is still true today."
Later in the panel, Biology Professor Nicole Pinaire walked through the vaccination creation process, which looks a little different than previous vaccine development.
“There is a lot of talk about the use of RNA for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines,” said Pinaire. “This is a technology that has been around for a long time. However, it’s not been widely used in vaccines until now. This is likely the future of vaccine development.”
Pinaire explained that RNA vaccines don’t introduce a virus into the body like traditional vaccines. Instead, it utilizes another known scientific approach. The vaccine helps create neutralization antibodies in the body. It creates memory cells that have the ability to fight the COVID virus when it enters the body.
“When this process happens, the virus is not able to find a host. It can’t replicate,” Pinaire added. “These are actually much simpler vaccines. They are easier to manufacture and less expensive to create.”
Though the FDA and CDC have given approval to three COVID vaccines, there is still concern about their safety from many. Political Science Adjunct Professor Lisa Randoll addressed some of those concerns, especially the recent pause on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
“Our vaccination approval process is known as the gold standard throughout the world,” Randoll explained. “There are many steps involved before a vaccine can be distributed to the public.”
Randoll explained the recent issues with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine should actually give people comfort in the integrity of the vaccine approval system.
“You should feel confident and safe getting vaccinated knowing the government agencies responsible for their safety are actively monitoring how these vaccines are affecting real people,” said Randoll.
The panel, moderated by Political Science Professor Paul Roesler, also took questions from students, faculty and staff members.
- Why do we need two shots?
- Pinaire: “It’s about creating more antibodies and more memory cells. This is why it is possible we might see booster shots in the future.”
- Who is eligible now to get a vaccine?
- Lisa Randoll: “Anyone over 16 years old for the Pfizer vaccine, and anyone over 18 for the Moderna vaccine. You can now find vaccines at mass vaccination clinics, pharmacies and major retailers in St. Charles County.”
- Should I wait to take the vaccine closer to flu season?
- Sara Evers: “Get vaccinated as soon as you can. There is no reason to wait, as we want to reach herd immunity as soon as possible. Plus, you aren’t able to take a COVID vaccine at the same time as a flu shot.”
- Should I be concerned about the RNA technology being used for the vaccine?
- Sara Evers: “RNA technology isn’t new. It just hasn’t been used for a vaccine before. There is concern that the process moved too fast on these vaccines. It’s simply not true. It’s just a different approach than we are used to. It is perfectly safe.”
- Can an employer force you to get vaccinated?
- Sara Evers: “Private entities can require you to have a vaccine. It would be no different than a business requiring a drug test or requiring other vaccines to work there. State and federal entities have not yet required the vaccine for employees.”
- I’ve heard there have been more reactions from the Moderna vaccine than the Pfizer vaccine. Is that true?
- Sara Evers: “The numbers for both vaccines are very small. For Moderna, 2.1 people per million have a severe reaction. For Pfizer, it’s around six per million. Mild reactions, however, differ from person to person. Every body reacts differently to a vaccine.”
- Can you still give COVID to someone if you have had the vaccine?
- Sara Evers: “Research shows most people do not spread the virus after getting vaccinated. While you shouldn’t be able to give someone COVID-19 after getting the vaccine, nothing is 100 percent. That is why we still have cases of measles show up across the country.”