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March 29, 2021

UVA Experts to Tackle COVID-19 Vaccine Questions

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

A scientist and a doctor from UVA Health will field questions from the public about the COVID-19 vaccines Tuesday night as part on ongoing series of virtual town halls.

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.

Tuesday’s speakers are Dan Engel, PhD, of the UVA School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology; and UVA Health’s Ebony Hilton, MD.

About the COVID-19 Speakers

Engel is an expert on drug discovery for COVID-19, Ebola, Zika and influenza; he is also an architect of the town hall series. “We want to reach as many people as we can, listen to their questions and give unbiased, scientific answers.” he said. “All questions are welcomed.”

An advocate for underserved and marginalized populations, Hilton 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 and is a leading voice seeking equity in vaccine distribution.

Tuesday’s event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Eastern. Register to attend by visiting All the town halls are free, but registration is required; maximum capacity for each town hall is 300 people.

COVID-19 Vaccine Town Halls

Called “COVID-19 Vaccine Education,” the town hall series is sponsored by the American Society for Virology and the American Society of Microbiology, two of the nation’s leading professional organizations in infectious diseases.  More than 50 scientific experts from across the United States, including virologists, infectious disease specialists and medical doctors, are participating.

The series is co-chaired by Engel and Dean Kedes, MD, PhD, of UVA’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology, along with Felicia Goodrum, PhD, of the University of Arizona, and Mariano Garcia-Blanco, MD, PhD, of UTMB-Galveston.

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.

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