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Media Room

Date: 2/11/2021

Public invited to Maryville College’s virtual presentation about COVID vaccines

The public is invited to a virtual presentation that aims to explain the science behind COVID vaccines and help people feel more comfortable about taking them.

“Hope in a Syringe: How Decades of Research Made Rapid Development of COVID Vaccines Possible” will be presented by Dr. Jennifer Brigati, chair of the Division of Natural Sciences and associate professor of biology at Maryville College, on Thurs., Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. There is no charge to participate in the event.

“There seems to be a lot of misinformation spreading about the COVID vaccines, and I’ve had a lot of friends reach out to ask if the things they’ve heard are true,” Brigati explained. “I was addressing a misconception about the vaccine on social media, and a colleague asked if I would be willing to do a presentation for students on campus as well as the local community. I know that the science behind these vaccines is hard to understand when you haven’t spent years in biology classes, and the process for their development can seem mysterious if you haven’t been involved in that process, so I am happy to be a resource for people wanting to learn more about the vaccines.”

The event is sponsored by Maryville College’s Scots Science Scholars (S3) as one of the program’s STEM Success Series events. To obtain the Zoom link for the virtual presentation, please email Lindsay Walton, STEM success manager at Maryville College, at lindsay.walton@maryvillecollege.edu.

Participants may submit questions to a moderator through Zoom’s chat feature during the event; however, participants are encouraged to email questions in advance to Walton to ensure those questions will be addressed during the presentation.

Brigati’s research background is in counter-bioterrorism, specifically the detection of pathogenic bacteria, such as anthrax spores. The anthrax attacks of 2011 occurred while she was in graduate school, providing “a unique opportunity to jump into a very timely research project,” she said.

“While my specialty is man-made biological threats, there are many similarities between biological terrorism and naturally occurring pandemics,” said Brigati, who joined the Maryville College faculty in 2006.

During the presentation, Brigati plans to explain how the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (the two vaccines that currently have Emergency Use Authorization, or EUA) and the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines (the two likely to receive EUA soon) work; the decades of research that allowed their seemingly rapid development; the clinical trials process; and current safety data for the vaccines. She said she will also touch on normal vaccine side effects, as well as the specific side effects most commonly seen with COVID vaccines, “so people know what to expect when they go for their shot.” 

Brigati said she hopes the presentation will make people feel more comfortable taking a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available to them.

“I can understand how from the outside it looks like these vaccines were rushed, but the technologies used to develop these vaccines were actually developed many years ago,” Brigati said. “Clinical trials were speedy in large part because people were anxious to enroll, so the recruitment phase didn’t take long, and the virus has become quite prevalent in the US, so it didn’t take long to get the required number of confirmed cases in the control group. It’s easy to be afraid when you don’t know how something works and you don’t trust how it was made. I hope I can ease some of those fears.”