TAMU-CC’s I-TEAM Hosts COVID-19 Vaccine Panel

Patricio Vera Baez, Reporter

On April 21 a panel was hosted by the I-TEAM with the purpose of providing information on the COVID-19 vaccines. The hour-long event was held virtually through WebEx and featured a moderator with three panelists.

The three panelists present were Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi University Health Center Director Zelda Chacon, TAMU-CC College of Nursing and Health Sciences Interim Dean Dr. Bunny Forgione and Public Health Emergency Preparedness Manager Dr. Moriam Ojelade from Corpus Christi Nueces County Public Health District.

Moderator Daniel Passonno tapped into the panelist’s health expertise to highlight important information as well as dispel popular rumors regarding the COVID-19 virus and vaccinations.  The event started with an in-depth introduction of each panelist and promptly shifted to COVID-19 related questions.

Dr. Forgione explained how the vaccines are “very effective and very safe,” then followed up by revealing that there is no COVID-19 present in the vaccines. She later said that although the vaccines are not 100 percent effective, “cutting down the chances of getting the coronavirus” by getting the vaccine benefits the population as a whole and still leads to a “reduction in transmission.”

Dr. Ojelade stated that young healthy people should also get the vaccine because the symptoms from the virus can be unpredictable. This could then create more protection for people with high risk stemming from underlying conditions like “diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, and down syndrome.” She also believes that “vaccination is one of our most powerful tools towards putting a stop to the pandemic.”

The CDC has put a lot of resources into studying the limited data on the effectiveness of the vaccines with the COVID-19 variants, and according to Dr. Ojelade the vaccines “should work against the COVID-19 variants we have out there.”

When it comes to face coverings, Dr. Forgione recommended for people to keep up with the frequently changing guidelines and stated that fully vaccinated people can interact without masks on. Less than a week later, the CDC updated their guidance on mask wearing and loosened restrictions.

Concerns over health risks from the vaccines were tackled by Dr. Chacon after Passonno revealed that 30 percent of Texans do not wish to get the vaccine. “The most prominent concern is ‘how do I know if it’s safe if it was created very, very quickly,’” to which she rebutted that although the vaccines usually take over 20 years to be created and tested, the technology to create these vaccines have existed for a while and vaccines can be created within a month for other types of viruses. She elaborated that the number of resources used for the development of the COVID-19 vaccine is significantly higher compared to the usual amount of resources used for other vaccines. Our COVID-19 vaccine development included large scale studies in contrast with the small and long-term development of other vaccines where small sample sizes of around 3000 people are done repeatedly due to the lack of vast resources.

More general information on the vaccine included Dr. Chacon’s input on the common side effects such as arm pain and swelling followed by headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, chills, fever and nausea.

More information on COVID-19 and vaccination safety can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov.