Christina Meyer – Staff Writer
Students and members of the Clarion community gathered on a chilly Saturday morning on Nov. 19 at Hart Chapel to ask a group of Clarion staff, as well as local health providers, questions in regards to vaccines and related health issues.
Sponsored by the Translational Research and Medicine Club, the discussion began at 11 a.m. with opening remarks to introduce the panel members. Along with hosting the panelists, the club provided baked goods, informational pamphlets and a raffle basket.
The panel was comprised of Dr. Douglas Smith, Dr. Helen Hampikian, and Dr. Brzoza – Lewis, who are all professors in Clarion University’s Department of Biology. Also joining them was Daniel Wilson, a graduate student studying biology at Carnegie Mellon University and Susanne Groner, a local representative of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Discussion topics included the importance of vaccines along with dispelling myths, such as vaccines giving patients viruses and causing autism. The panelists also discussed the rise of less vaccinated people and what the public can do to better prevent viruses from spreading. Here are some of the highlights:
Q: Do flu shots cause people to get sick?
A: When you receive a standard vaccine, it contains a killed virus. However, even in the case of the flu mist, which does contain a live virus, the side effects of receiving the vaccine show that it is working on building immunity. Another possible cause for people becoming sick after receiving the vaccine is that since it takes two weeks for immunity to build up, it is possible the patient contracted the flu during those weeks.
Q: How do vaccines protect the public from viruses over a lifetime?
A: When a virus affects a cell, it hijacks the replication process. Over time, the copy rate of that cell isn’t as effective. Vaccines cause the body to create antibodies that protect over time if the virus reenters. When people are vaccinated, there is no place for the virus to mutate, preventing the spread of the disease. That is why it is vital for people to continue to be vaccinated.
Q: What is the best way for the public to stay educated about vaccines?
A: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website is a great place to start. It is important to keep in mind that not all sources on the internet are reliable so be wary of myths. Make sure sources are scientific and supported by experts.
The Translational Medical Research Club hosted the panel for a distinct purpose. “We wanted to raise awareness of the importance of vaccines and ease fears for the public,” Alex Francette, the club president, said in a brief interview afterwards. “Vaccines aren’t something to be afraid of. They’re meant to help people. Vaccines help people around you as well as yourself.”
The Translational Research and Medicine Club meets weekly in room 120 in the Science and Technology Center building on Fridays at 2 p.m. For more information about the club, contact Alex Francette at A.M.Francette@eagle.clarion.edu.