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March 22, 2021

COVID-19: Scientists, Doctors Launch Vaccine Virtual Town Halls

Ebony Hilton, MD, receives the first COVID-19 vaccine administered at UVA Health.

More than 50 scientific experts from across the United States, including virologists, infectious disease specialists and medical doctors, are launching a series of virtual town halls today to answer the public’s questions about the COVID-19 vaccines. 

The effort aims to bring factual, scientific information to people across the country, particularly communities of color that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Questions about safety, speed of vaccine development, side effects, efficacy and new variants will be answered with the latest scientific information.

“In an age where most people get their information at a distance, we wanted to find a way to connect with people more directly,” said Dan Engel, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Engel and Dean Kedes, MD, PhD, both of UVA’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology, are co-chairs of the town hall series, along with Felicia Goodrum, PhD, of the University of Arizona, and Mariano Garcia-Blanco, MD, PhD, of UTMB-Galveston.

Called “COVID-19 Vaccine Education,” the program is sponsored by the American Society for Virology and the American Society of Microbiology, two of the nation’s leading professional organizations in the area of infectious diseases. 

The town halls will be hosted by pairs or groups of experts, and the sessions will run about 45 minutes. Sessions are slated to continue throughout the spring and summer.

On March 30, a town hall will be hosted by Engel and UVA Health’s Ebony Hilton, MD, who volunteered to receive the first vaccine at UVA to demonstrate it was safe and effective. She documented her experiences with the vaccine on social media.

Keep up with the latest dates in the town hall series, and register to attend, by visiting (All the events are free, but registration is required; maximum capacity for each town hall is 300 people.)

You can also watch a brief video about the events.

“As virologists, scientists and physicians, we have reviewed all the current data and are happy to help keep the public informed,” Kedes said.

Kedes, Engel and Hilton are spearheading the project at UVA with Judy White, PhD, of the Department of Cell Biology; William A. Petri Jr., MD, PhD, of the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology; and Steven Zeichner, MD, PhD, a pediatric infectious disease expert at UVA Children’s and member of the Departments of Pediatrics and Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology.

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog.

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