On December 17, 2020, PHLCVB Chief Health Advisor and Dean Emeritus of Jefferson’s College of Population Health, Dr. David Nash, and Dr. Leonard Friedland, Vice President, Director Scientific Affairs and Public Health for GSK Vaccines and PHL Health Advisor, discussed COVID-19 vaccine safety, distribution, and impact on the tourism industry.
Read on for highlights from the webinar and to view the session.
On vaccine safety: “The benefits outweigh the risks”
Dr. Friedland said the “benefits are incredible” and marveled at how “science has led us to a new place in this truly transformative time, highly disruptive in a positive way. The entire biomedical community has been transformed.” Friedland has developed 16 vaccines in the course of his career as a vaccine research scientist, and when asked about multiple vaccines moving through trials so quickly, he assured that no short cuts have been taken and he is looking forward to getting the vaccine himself. Regarding side effects, Dr. Nash posited that they are a “good sign that the vaccine is working.”
Taking the vaccine is “altruistic” and leaders play an important role
“Some people need the vaccine before others,” asserted Dr. Friedland. In order to attain herd immunity, or “community immunity,” Dr. Nash added that 60-70% of the population needs to be vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus. “It’s a team effort – when we each get vaccinated, we help each other. The more we do it, the faster it will happen.” The doctors both stressed that the public needs more leaders from all sectors of the community to lead by example. “We have to take personal responsibility,” maintains Dr. Nash. “You want to eat out? Get a vaccine. You want to go to a museum? Get a vaccine.”
It doesn’t matter which vaccine you get
Dr. Friedland discussed the types of vaccines that are in the queue over the next few months and the technologies behind them, including mRNA, and the vector-based and protein vaccines that rely on “tried and true” technologies, widely used in other vaccines. “They all offer the same benefits targeting the same antigen, spike protein. The key is to make sure you get the second dose.”
We can hasten the return to travel and meetings in 2021
Drs. Nash and Friedland are optimistic we are “headed in the right direction” but note that COVID-19 will be with us “deep” into 2021. “This is not an on/off switch,” said Nash. In order to ensure safe travel and gatherings, Nash described the “layers of protection” that will be needed: herd immunity, social distancing, mask wearing, washing hands, and better testing. In the meantime, the doctors recommended staying informed by following CDC recommendations, the guidance of local public health officials, and polling attendees to learn about their comfort level regarding when and how they would attend in-person gatherings. And, Nash affirmed, “when they come to a great city like ours, we’ll be ready. When they’re ready, we’ll be ready.”
Learn more about the PHL Health Pledge, an initative to increase awareness of Philadelphia’s readiness in safely welcoming back visitors and the PHL Health Advisors, a task force of experts from Philadelphia’s world-renowned medical community.