Spring has sprung here in Texas. It’s kind of shocking how quickly it seemed to have appeared after such a devastating winter storm. There was so much damage and so much suffering, and while we were still scrambling to get food and water to those in need, it was 80 degrees outside. The winter storm stopped us all in our tracks, and in addition to the effect on our daily life, there was a huge effect on the vaccine distribution effort.
It has been a great challenge to get the vaccine to people who need it and a week’s delay was not insignificant. This is the first time in modern history that we are attempting to vaccinate the entire world at the same time. It is unprecedented to have all eyes on how a drug is made: how long it took to formulate, at what temperature it is stored and transported, and its mechanism. As a scientist, I love that people are getting the opportunity to hear about the different factors that go into getting a drug from an idea or molecule discovery all the way through to a product, but I am also seeing the confusion that comes with this plethora of information with little context and adequate explanation. I am happy to have experts in drug development, formulation and delivery as my colleagues and friends. I have worked with Janet Walkow and Tim Sullivan in various ways over the years, as they are both active members of the Austin life science ecosystem and are always generous with their time and expertise. It is for that reason that I asked them to share with you some insight into this vaccine development and deployment.
In our latest podcast episode, they do a fantastic job of giving some context and explanation to the information that is heard on the news. They also present some ways that this could have played out differently if we dared to challenge the status quo. Imagine having your vaccine dose delivered to your home and it was as simple as dissolving it under your tongue or inhaling it with a simple nasal inhaler. Why are vaccines still being developed that require the use of trained medical personnel and costly storage arrangements? Why are they being delivered intramuscularly when that route takes significantly longer to trigger a complete immune response? Why are we requiring people who have been quarantining for a year to line up with hundreds of other people in order to get vaccinated? While we may not get all the answers to these questions, Tim and Janet address these topics and dispel some misinformation in this episode of “Science in the Mall, Y’all.”