Marshall, City of Huntington Hosting Forum on COVID 19 Vaccines

Huntington - Providing accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccine will be the focus of a virtual public forum at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 18.

"Ask the Experts About the COVID-19 Vaccine: A Pharmacist-Led Virtual Forum for the Fairfield Community," is presented by the City of Huntington, The Marshall University School of Pharmacy, the Fairfield Community Development Corporation and the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Lyceum at Marshall University. The purpose of the virtual forum is to give the public, and particularly the Fairfield community, an opportunity to have any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine answered by a panel of experts.

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted racial minorities in the U.S. According to the CDC, blacks represent 12.7 percent of the U.S. population but have accounted for 23.4 percent of the COVID-19 related deaths when standardized for age. Statistics also indicate that approximately 30 percent of blacks say they are "definitely" willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine compared to 55.5 percent of whites.

“We know that the COVID pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color," said Dr. Tyler Clay, a clinical assistant professor at the Marshall University School of Pharmacy, in a University-issued press release. "As more of the vaccine becomes available, I passionately believe it is the best tool we have to achieve equity and reduce this extraordinary burden. The goal of this panel discussion is to provide a resource for accurate and honest information to support Fairfield and greater Huntington community members in making their decisions about accepting the vaccine.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Dr. Clay has worked with physicians at St. Mary’s Medical Center to optimize medication therapy for hospitalized patients, developed education for providers related to COVID treatment strategies, and has helped manage medication shortages associated with the pandemic. He will be joined on the expert panel by the following individuals:

-- Dr. Cynthia Jones brings her expertise in vaccine development and pharmaceutical clinical trials. Dr. Jones received her Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences from Florida A&M University. She trains pharmacists on the science of vaccine development and FDA regulations surrounding drug approvals at the Marshall University School of Pharmacy.

-- Dr. Kara Orwig is involved in the management of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and serves as the COVID-19 vaccine coordinator for St. Mary’s Medical Center and HIMG, overseeing the administration of almost 5,000 doses. Dr. Orwig returned to her hometown of Huntington after completing her education and residency training in Rochester, New York, and has been serving the Huntington community as the infectious diseases clinical pharmacy specialist at St. Mary’s for 17 years.

-- Dr. Charles “CK” Babcock has been immunizing patients in the community setting since pharmacists were originally authorized to administer vaccinations in 2009 and has been educating pharmacists to give immunizations for more than a decade. Since the start of the pandemic, Dr. Babcock has worked with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department on COVID testing and contact tracing. To date, Dr. Babcock has overseen 11 vaccine clinics with the West Virginia National Guard to deliver more than 3,000 doses to the area.

Mayor Steve Williams and District 5 Huntington City Councilwoman Teresa Johnson will provide opening remarks during the forum. Former District 5 City Councilwoman Sandra Clements will serve as moderator.

 Questions can be submitted in advance by emailing vaccine@huntingtonwv.gov or by calling (304)962-8138. The public forum will be live-streamed on the City of Huntington's Facebook page, and on channel 24 for Comcast cable subscribers. Questions will also be accepted during the forum via email, phone and on Facebook.