UMass Amherst Presents Free Webinar on COVID-19 Vaccine

Panel of experts will answer participants’ questions
vaccine bottle

AMHERST, Mass. – A University of Massachusetts Amherst COVID-19 vaccine webinar, featuring a panel of scientists and public health experts, will aim to dispel misinformation and fear about the vaccine and explain why its widespread use around the world is crucial to overcoming the deadly pandemic.

Presented by the College of Natural Sciences, the College of Nursing and the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Making the Case: The COVID-19 Vaccine Webinar is scheduled for 4-5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2. The event is free and open to the public. Register here. Webinar participants are invited to submit questions when they register, and the panel of experts will answer as many as possible.

“The COVID-19 vaccines are critical to the health and well-being of millions of people in Massachusetts and billions around the world, but they must be taken in large numbers to have the most positive effect,” says Sheila Pennell, a clinical assistant professor of nursing who helps lead the COVID-19 testing operation for the UMass Public Health Promotion Center and supervises students now administering the COVID-19 vaccine at the Campus Center.

Misinformation about the vaccine’s safety and purpose threatens public health efforts to carry out statewide vaccination programs across the country. “Scientists, healthcare specialists and public health experts agree that the COVID-19 vaccines were developed using sound scientific research, years in the making,” Pennell adds.

The live Zoom panel discussion will be moderated by Allison Vorderstrasse, dean of the College of Nursing. The panelists will share their perspectives as active science, nursing and public health experts and review historic vaccination programs around the world as they also address the importance of COVID-19 vaccine participation.

In addition to Pennell, the panelists are:

Craig Martin, a UMass Amherst professor of chemistry and member of the graduate program in molecular and cellular biology. For more than three decades, Martin’s research group has studied the enzymology of T7 RNA polymerase, the enzyme used in the synthesis of mRNA vaccines.

Sarah Goff, a UMass Amherst associate professor in the department of health promotion and a practicing med-peds physician trained to care for the newborn to the geriatric patient. Dr. Goff’s research focuses on issues of quality and equity in the U.S. healthcare system, with an emphasis on women and children's health and healthcare.

Kevin Cranston, an assistant commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. He is the director of the department’s Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, which tracks and combats infectious disease.

Robin Hynds, a UMass Amherst alumna and senior vice president of network and strategic operations and chief clinical integration officer at Lawrence General Hospital in Lawrence, Mass. She has over 20 years of experience in healthcare, and her recent work during COVID-19 has focused on ensuring adequate access to testing and vaccines, especially in underserved communities.

Barbara Osborne, a distinguished professor in the department of veterinary and animal sciences. In her 30-plus years at UMass Amherst, she has investigated various aspects of the immune response to pathogens. As active participant in the UMass response to COVID-19, Osborne has authored over 140 scientific publications and co-authored Kuby Immunology, a best-selling immunology textbook. She also has co-founded two biotech companies.