Hopkins and UMB health care professionals discuss vaccine development and distribution

Vaccines Newsmaker Intro

On January 19, 2021, the GBC Newsmaker Speaker Series — Vaccines On the Way: Development & Distribution explored advancements and developments with the COVID-19 vaccines.

Speakers included:

  • Dr. Anna P. Durbin, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Dr. Bruce Jarrell, President, University of Maryland, Baltimore
  • Dr. Lisa Maragakis, Senior Director, Healthcare Epidemiology and Infection Prevention, Johns Hopkins
  • Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, Director, Center for Vaccine Development, University of Maryland School of Medicine

In his opening comments, GBC President and CEO Don Fry said, “Baltimore is so fortunate to have two extraordinary medical research institutions that serve as bookends of our city and are economic engines for our region. The quality of health care that they bring to our region is exceptional but all too often ground-breaking research and development of medical advances are taking place at these fine institutions that we are not aware of.”

Vaccine panelistsThe panelists all stressed the safety of the available vaccines and noted the importance of continuing to communicate with the Black and Latinx communities. They also explained what business leaders can do to help with the vaccination process.

Here are some of the highlights from the discussion:

On lessons learned:

While stressing that the backdrop for the vaccine discussion is that we remain in a surge and hospitals are full, Dr. Jarrell started with three key points:

  • “We’ve learned a lot. Most importantly, we’ve learned to work together. We learned…just how critical having a good logistics plan to execute your ideas becomes.”
  • “We’ve seen very few reactions of a serious nature. That’s very reassuring.”
  • “People want to discuss things. It’s important to have individuals in our vaccination center who can talk to them, who are available to answer questions. It’s important that those individuals are of a diverse nature.”

Dr. Durbin noted that “outreach throughout the community has been incredibly helpful” and said that Hopkins has “worked closely with the African-American faith community [and the Latinx community] so they can instill confidence in their communities to ensure the vaccines are safe and effective and necessary to get us out of this pandemic.”

The goal, Dr. Durbin said, is to “rebuild trust within communities of color. We have to listen first. We want to ensure there is equity and access to care.”

Global pandemicBoth Dr. Durbin and Dr. Neuzil noted that we need a global response to the pandemic.

“We can’t stop a global pandemic unless everybody around the world has access to these safe and effective vaccines.”

Dr. Neuzil added, “We really do need a global answer. We will not be back to normal until we control this everywhere.”

On the speed, effectiveness and safety of the vaccine:

“No corners have been cut on safety,” Dr. Neuzil assured. “The reason we’re able to move so fast is because of a very solid foundation of science in this country and the unprecedented resources.” She added that gene-based vaccines are able to “get out of the gate faster.”

Addressing some of the misinformation that has been circulating, Dr. Neuzil stressed that “these vaccines cannot alter your DNA.”

Dr. Durbin said that the process was able to be accelerated because of the removal of financial risk for moving these products forward. “We were able to overlap phases. The safety aspect was not compromised at all, but companies moved forward with development and production because they didn’t have to worry per se about getting reimbursed if the vaccines work or not.”

Dr. Durbin is hopeful that two additional candidate vaccines will have emergency use authorization by February. “That’s going to really help us expand the number of doses of vaccines that are going to be available throughout this country and worldwide.”

Dr. Maragakis added that “we need more data about what the vaccine does prevent, but we do recommend everyone continue their preventive precautions.”

On the availability of the vaccines:

“We have to do what we must to increase capacity. We must take all the steps necessary to stop and interrupt the transmission of the virus,” Dr. Maragakis said. “Our expert staff are really the critical limiting factor.”

Dr. Neuzil commented that she does not expect to see the first filings for new approval of additional vaccines until April.

Dr. Durbin believes two additional vaccines will be available relatively soon. “We could have vaccines into healthy adults 18 and over by July. I’m cautiously optimistic,” she said. “I am confident that each and every one of these vaccines is going to induce a high level of protection.”

Dr. Maragakis urged patience. “Supplies are the constraint right now. Across the board, we have seen heroic efforts to stand up new operations and logistics to get vaccines into arms.”

Dr. Jarrell agreed, “This is new ground for many of us on many levels. Everybody is trying very hard to make these things happen. People have had to try very hard to do this on very short notice often on a shoe string. There’s no lack of effort. It’s just new ground.”

Dr. Maragakis added that it is critically important that “we get information into the hands of everyone who needs it” and noted that Hopkins is looking at setting up mobile units as a way to solve the problem of access.

On how the vaccine process has changed health care:

“It has fundamentally changed the way we’ll be doing business,” Dr. Jarrell said, noting we’ll be seeing more telemedicine and refining online teaching. “Telehealth has become a way of life now.”

“We have comprehensively transformed the delivery of health care,” Dr. Maragakis said. “We need to realize health care, by its nature, is a finite resource. We have done what we can. We continue to do what we must to increase capacity to meet the medical demands to care for patients.”

How business leaders can help:

“The first thing is to understand that everyone is maximally utilized,” said Dr. Jarrell. “Any resources people can bring to the table will help us do a better job. Just be understanding and patient that people are trying their best. Everybody needs to be pulling together.”

Dr. Maragakis noted that she’s seen some success with public-private partnerships. “The more we can work together and pull together collaboratives to solve some of these tough issues … we end up with a better product that can reach more people.”

Dr. Durbin reminded businesses that are actually working in the community to ask community members about their needs and concerns. “Address all the misinformation that is out there…. Help combat the misinformation. Help people make the choice to be vaccinated.”

Also see:

COVID-19: GBC Coverage and Response

COVID-19 Resources and Helpful Websites

Coverage of GBC Member companies’ philanthropic responses to COVID-19

News Coverage of GBC COVID-19 Events