Are they safe? Are they effective? When and how can I get one?
Those were some of the questions addressed in a Feb. 18 hourlong town hall about COVID-19 vaccines featuring Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., College of Human Medicine Associate Dean for Public Health Integration Debra Furr-Holden and MSU Emergency Management Coordinator David Oslund.
More than 1,000 MSU employees tuned in to the live event to hear from the panel of experts during the first of a series of town halls aimed at helping members of the Spartan community make informed decisions when it is their turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The conversation kicked off with a presentation by President Stanley on the state of the pandemic and vaccine development process. The safety and efficacy of the vaccines were front and center in his presentation. While the development was swift, no corners were cut, he explained.
“I understand why people would have concerns,” said Stanley, who has a background in infectious disease research. “This is almost miraculous that we are talking about a vaccine and we’re delivering it to people. But we really did have a lot of foundational work developed during SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). People may not be aware because that pandemic ended, but work continued on vaccine development.”
All of that work set the stage and provided a foundation to quickly build on, Stanley added.
The panel also addressed myths about the vaccines and shared important resources to turn to for expert and factual information.
Following Stanley’s comments, Furr-Holden underscored the critical importance of establishing a primary care provider.
“If you didn’t have a medical home coming into this pandemic, I really encourage people to take that seriously,” she said. “Not just you, but for your loved ones, and the people in your community and the people you come in contact with.”
She added that while individuals are responsible for their own health and wellness, primary care providers are essential members of their health care team and can help address questions and concerns.
Throughout the town hall, moderator Shawn Turner, a professor of strategic communication in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, asked the panel several questions from employees in attendance. One that consistently came up was: “Why are professors and educators not included in higher prioritization for the COVID vaccine?” Stanley shared that the decision was made by the state of Michigan and local health departments, and he continues to advocate on behalf of the university to raise the priority of higher education faculty and staff.
There were several questions the panelists were unable to address in the allotted time, so they reconvened after hours for a rapid-fire question and answer session. The panelists answered more than a dozen additional questions from employees to ensure no topic went unaddressed.
At the end of the town hall, one sentiment in particular was shared among all three panelists: It is critically important for us all to put in the work now to learn about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, so we can make an informed decision when it is our turn to receive it.