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Pasadena Medical Experts to Host Panel Discussion COVID-19, Vaccines and the Impact on the African American Community

Published on Saturday, February 6, 2021 | 6:09 am
 
Caltech Biophysicist Christopher Barnes, pictured in an undated photo provided by the city of Pasadena.

[UPDATED] A panel of Pasadena’s top medical experts will be coming together next week to host a virtual roundtable discussion on the topic of COVID-19, vaccines and the impact the pandemic is having on the African-American community.

The panel will take place at 1 p.m. Wednesday online and is being hosted by the Pasadena Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department, along with the Pasadena Black History Committee, city officials announced in a written statement.

Panelists will include Pasadena Director of Public Health Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, Caltech Structural Biologist Christopher Barnes, Huntington Hospital Pulmonary Disease Specialist Dr. Angela Ross Hay, and Huntington Hospital Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Kimberly Shriner, organizers said.

Barnes’ work as a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech focuses on ways in which proteins, including antibodies and viruses, bind with one another.

“Basically, my work has been to understand all of these different ways in which antibiotics can work to prevent the virus from affecting the cell,” Barnes said. “With our structural information, we can make good informed choices about antibody cocktails.”

With new mutations of the SARS-Cov-2 virus prompting concerns, it’s an especially important time to learn as much as possible about the virus’ behavior and structure “when we’re looking for antibodies that may still be effective against the new variants, including the one from South Africa or Brazil,” according to Barnes. “That’s where my information can really be useful.”

Barnes said it is vital people have reliable information about existing vaccines.

“The one thing that I want to tell people is that the vaccine is safe and is very effective,” he said. 

“We’ve administered I think close to 30 million doses here in the United States, and you can see that it is relatively very safe, compared to actual COVID,” Barnes said. “I have encouraged my whole family to be vaccinated because the benefits outweigh the risks associated with this vaccine.”

Barnes said the message was especially important in communities where there may be distrust of the vaccines.

“Unfortunately, the way our healthcare system is here in the United States, there are health disparities across economic groups. And for the most part, Black and Brown people typically get the brunt end of both right there,” he said.

“Typically, our understanding of healthcare needs for the Black and Brown communities are not as greatly understood as White communities,” Barnes said. “Typically we aren’t involved in clinical trials. Enrollment of Black and Brown people in clinical trials has been hard to do. So when you’re making new therapies, obviously you want to have that representation in these trials, which has been very hard to do in the past.”

Now that vaccines have been developed against COVID-19, the faster they can be distributed, the better off everyone will be, he said.

“The more people we can get vaccinated, the faster we can get them vaccinated, the better because what we don’t want is to have a subpopulation of people that aren’t vaccinated, which then allows the virus to continue to replicate and gain new mutations,” Barnes said.

“I think it’s really important for people to understand that our race is against the evolution of the virus. So by getting vaccinated, you are helping us in this race to beat the virus,” he said. 

“I think that’s really important to really stress to people, which is why we want to encourage people to get vaccinated, especially in communities where there have been low levels of vaccination.”

The discussion will be held via Zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85743684556, and can will be available to view afterward at cityofpasadena.net/parks-and-rec/featured-news/black-history-events.

Questions for the panelists may be submitted in advance by emailing parksandrec@cityofpasadena.net. More information is available by calling the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department at (626) 744-4386.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed the phone number of the Pasadena Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. The story has been updated.

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