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Listen: St. Louis University Infectious Disease Physician Answers Vaccine Questions

Coronavirus vaccines will soon be available in the St. Louis area. The vaccine can prevent people from developing the COVID-19 illness.
David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
About 116 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the U.S., according to data published last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All Missouri adults will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by April 9, and all those 16 and older in Illinois become eligible on April 12. Yet, many still have questions — such as how the vaccines work against coronavirus variants and which vaccine is the best to receive.

“Whatever vaccine is available to you the earliest is the best one for you,” said Dr. Dan Hoft, an infectious disease physician, “because they all are shown to be safe, they all work, and the earlier we get people vaccinated, the earlier we can get back to normal life.”

Hoft is the director of St. Louis University’s Center for Vaccine Development. He joined Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air to discuss the latest vaccine news and answer listener questions, such as why one vaccine would lead to a stronger bodily reaction than others and why some people experience an arm rash after receiving the vaccine.

SLU’s Center for Vaccine Development was involved in developing and testing the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines currently in use. Now, the center is starting a clinical trial that aims to develop a second-generation vaccine that will be effective against coronavirus variants.

Hoft said the project involves working on combining aspects of current vaccines — like Johnson & Johnson’s antivirus vaccine and Moderna’s self-amplifying mRNA vaccine — to produce two separate immune responses to the coronavirus.

“This trial is not only trying to reduce neutralizing antibodies, which are key, but it's also trying to induce a much better T-cell response, which is the other part of the immune response that can protect us by not making antibodies, but by recognizing an infected cell and eliminating that infected cell before it makes new viral particles,” Hoft said. “That is like a one-two punch, you got two immune responses for one, and that might work better.”

Those interested in enrolling in the trial, or learning more, can visit http://vaccine.slu.edu or call 314-977-6333.

What are you still wondering about COVID-19 vaccines? Tweet us (@STLonAir), send an email to talk@stlpublicradio.org or share your thoughts via our St. Louis on the Air Facebook group, and help inform our coverage.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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