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On Wednesday, April 21, Gwynedd Mercy University hosted a panel presentation entitled “COVID-19 Vaccines: Science and Pandemic Control” that discussed the science behind the COVID-19 vaccines and the importance of these vaccines in health care and for overall public health.
The panel consisted of three speakers from the GMercyU community: Stacey Lettini, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology; Ann Phalen, PhD, CRNP, NNP-BC, Dean of the Frances M. Maguire School of Nursing and Health Professions; and Sharla Willis, DrPH, MPH, MA, Founding Program Director and Assistant Professor of GMercyU’s Public Health Programs.
Dr. Willis kicked off the presentation by discussing a brief history of vaccines and how successful vaccine implementation eradicated smallpox. She then discussed the importance of vaccines from a public health perspective and where the U.S. stands with our current vaccine rollout. She explained how important it is to share accurate information as well as personal vaccine experiences with friends and loved ones to help convince them to get vaccinated.
“Don’t discount the impact that you can have in talking with your social circle,” said Dr. Willis about sharing your vaccine experience. “Our goal is to get to that herd immunity where we’ve got good vaccination coverage and can protect those who are most vulnerable in our society where COVID cannot continue spreading. Keep in mind that you are essential in this effort.”
As the discussion continued, Dr. Lettini explored and explained how and why vaccines work, how they are developed, and how safe they are. Specifically, she delved into types of vaccines and how they work. For example, Johnson and Johnson developed a Viral Vector vaccine, and Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines.
“The virus that causes this disease is known as the SARS-COV-2 virus,” said Dr. Lettini. “It’s one of three potential coronaviruses that infect humans. This is by far the most transmissible as well as the most serious in terms of causing a global pandemic.”
Dr. Lettini shared how coronaviruses are RNA viruses, meaning they have high mutation rates which lead to new strains of the virus. This segued into Dr. Phalen’s presentation, which explored more details of the COVID-19 illness and vaccine from a clinical perspective, including signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and potential side effects of the vaccines.
“The 12-24 hours after the vaccine, some people develop fever, chills, body and muscle aches, and fatigue. But don’t worry, that’s good that you’re having these symptoms,” said Dr. Phalen. “That means your body is working hard to build the antibodies and cells needed to fight this virus.”
After the presentations, our panelists answered questions from the audience.
To view the entire recording of this presentation, please visit GMercyU’s YouTube Channel.