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University of Pittsburgh scientists work to develop coronavirus vaccine

By Jake Dabkowski

Disclaimer: This story was previously ran in The Globe.

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have begun developing a potential vaccine for COVID-19. COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus, has become an international issue, and the death toll in the United States reached 11 as of Wednesday, March 4.

 

Small vials of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, were delivered to the University of Pittsburgh two weeks ago by a specially trained FedEx delivery team. The University of Pittsburgh previously led the field in vaccine development. They are responsible for the polio vaccine, as well as many other innovations in the medical field.

 

“The one challenge with vaccines is that the development process is not fast. When you’re vaccinating people, the safety of the vaccine being administered is paramount,” Paul Duprex, the director of Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research, said in a press release.

 

Despite the difficulty of developing a vaccine, many are optimistic.

 

“We genuinely have the the technology and the capability to figure things out,” Angela Le, a student who works in one of Pitt’s research labs, said.

 

According to Le, the university requires scientists to have a doctorate to even look at the vials, and they have taken security into account.

 

“As long as it’s safely contained, I don’t see an issue with it,” Dan Russo, a Point Park freshman broadcast production major said.

 

However, not all students are happy about it. When news broke that the virus would be delivered to the university, Pitt Quarterback Kenny Pickett took to Twitter, writing “what are we doing?”

 

Many replied to Pickett praising the university’s medical program and pointing out that one of the buildings on campus is called Salk Hall, named after Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine at Pitt.

“I know people who are freaking out over it, but I personally don’t think it’s a big deal. In research, the rate of infection is low, in my mind we won’t get infected and divulge into mass hysteria like everyone else thinks,” Danny Isaac, a Pitt student who works in the lab the coronavirus is being studied in, said.

 

Others seem to think that the coronavirus has been overblown and that there’s a lot less to be worried about than the public believes.

 

“For some reason everyone is making the coronavirus out to be like the end of humanity, but I feel like no one really talked about Ebola or other outbreaks the same way as Coronavirus,” Lauren Ignatz, a freshman at Pitt said.

 

Some concerns have been raised about travel and students planning to study abroad, as well as for students who are currently in foreign countries.

 

“My friend is going to Italy this summer for a couple weeks but there’s been an outbreak there so she’s not sure what she’ll have to deal with getting there, if she even goes at all,” Ignatz said.

 

Point Park University’s Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Paylo and University Nurse Lauren Hogan penned a statement on behalf of the university that was sent to the campus community on Sunday, March 1.

 

“Point Park University and our Student Health Services Office continue to monitor the 2019 Coronavirus… currently, no suspected cases have been reported at Point Park University. Students with questions or who need medical care should contact the Student Health Services Office, 2nd floor – Thayer Hall,” the statement said.

 

According to the CDC, symptoms of the virus include mild to severe respiratory illness, symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath.

 

To prevent the virus, the CDC suggests frequently washing your hands, covering your nose and mouth while sneezing, avoiding sharing cups or utensils and staying home when sick. According to a press conference held by the CDC, it is not a matter of “if” the coronavirus will spread, but “when.”

 

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