Panel Discussion Focuses on Viruses and Vaccines: The History, Science, and Impacts of COVID-19

Meredith College sponsored a virtual panel discussion, “Viruses and Vaccines:  The History, Science, and Impacts of COVID-19,” on August 31, 2021. The session provided a layperson’s overview of what we know about viruses and vaccines, specific applications to COVID and North Carolina statistics, and concluded with an audience Q&A.

Watch the full webinar

The presentation begins with an introduction by President Jo Allen, ’80, who said the webinar would provide “foundational knowledge about how viruses work and how vaccines work.” Allen called the panelists “extraordinarily well-qualified professionals.”

Panelists included 

  • Dr. Carolina Perez-Heydrich, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences; Director of Undergraduate Research Program
  • Dr. Jason Andrus, Professor of Biological Sciences; Department Head, Biology
  • Dr. Yvette Brown, ’90, Board Certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist; Chair, Meredith College Board of Trustees
  • Dr. Zack Moore, State Epidemiologist and Epidemiology Section Chief, Division of Public Health, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  • Dr. Anne Smithson, Board Certified Family Medicine Specialist; Meredith College Campus Physician

The session was moderated by Dr. Liz Wolfinger, Dean, School of Natural and Mathematical Sciences.

The presentation included a video about COVID-19, which Meredith biological sciences faculty created in February 2021, soon after vaccines were made available for emergency use. Watch the video at 5:00.

“Since that time, our understanding of the virus has continued to evolve with the accumulation of more data as well as the emergence of the now dominant Delta variant,” explained Dr. Carolina Perez-Heydrich.

Perez-Heydrich followed the video with an update on what has changed in scientific understanding of COVID-19  and vaccines since February 2021. She noted that unvaccinated people make up more than 90% of hospitalizations and are more than 15 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated. Watch the update at 23:43.

Dr. Yvette Brown then discussed how misinformation about how the COVID-19 vaccines and fertility has led to vaccine hesitancy.  Watch her section of the webinar at 31:50.

Dr. Anne Smithson talked about how colleges including Meredith have worked to combat COVID-19. These efforts, “taking concrete steps including entrance testing, self-monitoring daily through CampusClear, weekly surveillance testing and contract tracing when a positive is found” have made a difference in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Watch her section at 38:55.

Dr. Zack Moore gave an overview of where COVID cases stand in North Carolina. Moore said “the Delta variant has upended our expectations.” Moore and others on the panel emphasized the importance of continued diligence about wearing face coverings, distancing appropriately, and washing hands frequently. Watch his section at 44:54.

Panelists then took audience questions. Watch the Q&A at 1:02:21.

President Allen then thanked the participants for providing expert information that will “help us think about how we protect ourselves, our families, and our communities.”

For more information on Meredith’s response to COVID-19, visit

Melyssa Allen

News Director
316 Johnson Hall
(919) 760-8087
Fax: (919) 760-8330