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Vaccine trials bring hope in battle against the coronavirus

Labs throughout the world  are searching for an answer to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some seem to making progress, so says Dr. Nancy Nielsen, Senior Associate Dean of Health Policy at UB's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Of the 100 vaccines in development, she says eight are in trials with human patients.

During her weekly appearance on WBFO, Nielsen provided background into a vaccine that is being tested at the medical schools of NYU and the University of Maryland. This particular vaccine used "the genetic material of this coronavirus and altered it."

The vaccine, Nielsen said, "would take messenger RNA, so not the virus itself, but messenger RNA, inject it into an individual."

"The individual then makes the spike proteins but without the virus there to cause trouble. Then the body makes the antibodies to it."

While she considers this to be an exciting approach, she notes, "never before has a genetic vaccine made it to market."

Nielsen offered some thoughts on the push in some parts of the country to reopen.

"I'm very concerned, actually. And I have friends who live in the states that are opening to one degree or the other. We anticipate when people start congregating, we're going to have an increase in cases.," Nielsen said.

"To me, it was bizarre to open tattoo parlors and beauty salons. That makes much less sense to me than what Governor Cuomo is postulating that we begin by reopening construction, where people are really not that close together usually, and manufacturing."

Locally, Erie County appears behind much of Upstate New York when it comes to reopening. Nielsen says the high hospitalization rates of COVID-19 patients and the slow pace of testing for the coronavirus need to improve before sectors of the economy reopen.

Nielsen also offered an insight into Governor Cuomo's announcement that Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, would assist the state's effort in rebuilding after the pandemic. 

"He's one of the smartest guys I've ever met," said Nielsen, though she was uncertain of Schmidt's role in New York moving forward.

"But, you will not find a more innovative thinker anywhere."

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