The lead principal investigator for the trial that won U.S. authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will speak with SUNY Cortland students and faculty this Thursday, April 1, less than a week before college-age students can start receiving the vaccine.
Dr. Stephen Thomas, chief of infectious diseases and director of the Institute for Global Health and Translational Sciences at SUNY Upstate Medical University, led global phase three clinical trial for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Data from that trial, which showed the vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, was critical to the vaccine winning U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use approval.
Thomas will speak to the SUNY Cortland community about the vaccine and medical future of the virus during Thursday’s online event, which begins at 10 a.m. and will include a question-and-answer session.
Students, faculty or staff planning to participate should be aware that advanced registration is required. Once registered, attendees will receive a link by email to use for the Webex meeting.
“This is a very respected medical doctor who is working on this issue,” said Alexandru Balas, associate professor, director of the James M. Clark Center for Global Engagement and coordinator of the International Studies program. “It would be great for our community to learn from an authority and expert in the field about the vaccine and his thoughts about the future.”
Thomas Frank, director of the Research and Sponsored Programs Office, recommended Stephen Thomas during the fall semester as a guest for a COVID-19 related event at SUNY Cortland.
The vaccine trial that Thomas led involved 43,661 participants in the U.S., Germany, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina. Pfizer-BioNTech was the first COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use in the U.S. last December.
New York state recently announced that it was expanding its eligibility guidelines, which seek to ensure that the most at-risk populations get vaccinated first, to allow anyone 16 or older to be vaccinated, starting April 6. Thomas will discuss the challenges that COVID-19 will continue to pose, both in the United States and across the globe.
“I think everyone is tired of talking about the pandemic, but the pandemic is not going to go away just because a bunch of people get vaccinated,” said Balas.
Thomas specializes in internal medicine and infectious diseases and is also a professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology at SUNY Upstate. In these roles, Thomas has developed medical solutions for global health problems.
This lecture is sponsored in part by the Clark Center for Global Engagement. Balas has invited colleagues from the Psychology Department at St. Aloysius College in Mangalore, India to join this event to provide additional global perspective. St. Aloysius College has partnered with SUNY Cortland previously as a site for students doing study abroad. Balas also delivered a series of public lectures at St. Aloysius in 2020.
The Clark Center will hold events about global well-being in mid-April. Sanjay Kumar from Central European University will be a virtual guest speaker in late April. More details will be forthcoming on the SUNY Cortland calendar.
“COVID is a pandemic, but mental health is another pandemic that is going hand in hand with COVID, unfortunately,” said Balas.
SUNY Cortland’s Health Department and the International Studies Program are also supporting this program.
Prepared by Communications Office writing intern Chelsea Grate