While we impatiently allow social distancing restrictions to help flatten the curve of the number of coronavirus patients flooding our healthcare systems, researchers are racing to find a vaccine that will destroy COVID-19 just as effectively as other vaccines have done for polio, diphtheria and measles.

At UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, scientists were able to act quickly by building on their earlier coronavirus research to create a potential vaccine delivered through a fingertip-sized skin patch.

“Our team of Pitt and UPMC scientists hope to be able to test this vaccine in people very soon,” said Louis Falo, M.D., Ph.D., immunologist and dermatologist, UPMC, in an inside.upmc.com article on April 8. “Our next step is to obtain approval from the Food and Drug Administration to start these clinical trials. The entire clinical testing process can take a year to 18 months in normal times. But there is nothing about this pandemic that is ‘normal.’ Very intelligent and hard-working scientists at the FDA are doing their best to assure that a vaccine that is both safe and effective will be available as soon as possible. Safety is everyone’s primary concern.”

If a vaccine is available within the next year or so, will people be willing to give it a chance? Some Valley residents and professionals share their thoughts.

Carol Parowski

Richfield resident

I would not be among the first to rush for a vaccine because I am slow to try any vaccine without knowing how effective it is. This is the first year I even got a flu shot, and that was a major living change where others to consider pushed my decision.

I do not have any underlying conditions, which I think offers me more options about the delay. I would likely wait a few years before considering the vaccine.

Paul Parowski

Richfield resident

Whether I would jump right in and take the vaccine or not would depend on how much trust I have in CDC and FDA pronouncements when it became available. If Dr. Fauci, or someone of equal stature, recommended taking it at the get-go, I probably would. If one of the current President’s appointees was recommending it, I’d probably wait.

I’ve been taking an annual flu shot for years, so I’m not afraid of a vaccine shot, per se. The decision to get or not get the vaccine boils down to ‘who’ do you trust, not whether you trust the vaccine to work correctly or not because even with a perfectly good vaccine, some folks will have bad side effects. In that regard, you weigh the odds and either choose to go with them or not.

Dr. Douglas Spotts

Vice president and Chief Health Officer of Meritus Health, Hagerstown, Maryland, and former family medicine specialist at Family Medicine of Evangelical

I absolutely would be vaccinated if one was properly developed through the various clinical stages—which would show safety and ability to create immunity.

The whole idea of a vaccine is to expose a person to a small amount of the virus (in an inactivated form) so that our bodies form antibodies to protect us from the virus in live and potentially lethal form.

If a vaccine is developed in time for the winter season, it would be important to know that it won’t take the place of the yearly influenza vaccine that everyone should obtain each winter season as well.

By the time vaccines come to market, they have been proven safe and effective, and I would certainly take the new vaccine rather than risk live COVID-19 infection, which has a much higher infectivity rate and much higher potential for severe outcomes, even death, than influenza ... and much higher than any potential reaction to a new vaccine.

For now, physical distancing, wearing masks when you must go out and good hand washing hygiene are the key to battling COVID-19 until a vaccine is developed.

Beth Kapsar

Selinsgrove resident

I would be hesitant to try a new vaccine right away. I imagine I would consult with several different professionals before making a decision either way.

Kathleen and Joe Herb

Selinsgrove residents 

This is a very easy decision to make. We would absolutely get the vaccine since it would protect not only the person receiving it but others also. Where’s the difficulty in choosing to do this?

Danielle Reber

A former Selinsgrove resident and now a medical student at Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, in Buffalo, New York

If a vaccine for the coronavirus is approved by the FDA, I would absolutely get the vaccine. Before a vaccine is approved by the FDA, it has to go through several stages of clinical testing to ensure that it is safe for human use and that it is effective against the disease it is supposed to prevent.

As a medical student, I have to put in lots of hours in the clinic and hospitals working with patients. I would get the vaccine to ensure that I don’t unknowingly develop COVID (since there have been so many asymptomatic cases) and pass it on to my patients.

Additionally, I would hope that the vaccine protects me as well. While most of the COVID fatalities have been in individuals who were elderly or had underlying medical conditions, there have also been fatalities in young, seemingly healthy patients. Furthermore, patients who do recover from the virus have the potential for long-term complications. Doctors here in Buffalo are seeing patients developing kidney failure and some studies have suggested the possibility of permanent lung damage.

I don’t know for sure how my body would react if I developed COVID, and some of the possible outcomes are very serious. I would definitely get the vaccine to help protect myself, as well as protect others.

As a side note, Reber added that even if the vaccine is not 100 percent effective at prevention (as is the case with influenza vaccines), it can still lessen the severity of the illness if someone does get it. She concluded, “So even if the coronavirus vaccine is not 100 percent effective and people can still get sick, they will still see some benefit and have milder disease.”

Gigi Dressler

Liverpool resident

I would wait years before getting a vaccine. I would like to see how other people respond to the vaccine. I started getting the flu shot maybe three or four years ago, and I just got the shingles shot last year. And look how long they have been available!

Corinne Hoke, Pharm. D.

A pharmacist at Custom Care Pharmacy, of Milton

I plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as the vaccine hits the market and becomes accessible.

Getting the vaccine will significantly lessen the likelihood that I become ill from COVID-19, which is important to me. It means I can continue working and serving the public to ensure people have access to life-sustaining medications. It means I can continue to care for my busy toddler.

However, the most important reason I will be getting vaccinated is not to protect myself, but rather to do my part to protect my family, my friends, my coworkers, my patients, and the community at large. When enough people in a community become vaccinated against a disease, we make it much more difficult for that disease to spread from person to person. This helps protect the people in our community who are too sick or too young to receive the vaccine.

The FDA has a designated process they use to ensure vaccines are safe and effective before they can be mass-produced and become available on the market, just like they do with new medications. This process includes three phases of clinical trials in humans. While I’m sure these phases will be expedited due to the dire need we have for a vaccine against COVID-19 at this time, vaccine developers have a solid history of producing safe, effective immunizations. Given that history, I feel as though the benefits of slowing the spread of COVID-19 and reducing deaths related to COVID-19 will significantly outweigh the highly unlikely risk of severe side effects from an FDA-approved immunization.

Gary Brouse

Lewisburg resident, member of Federal, State and Regional All Hazards Incident Management Teams

Yes, I would probably get the vaccine if FDA/CDC approved (from a legitimate source). One, because I have confidence in our medical researchers/professionals, and two, because I would probably be required to have it for deployments (much like all the other vaccinations I need/have).

Cindy O. Herman lives in Snyder County. Send e-mail comments to her at CindyOHerman@gmail.com.

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