HOCC chief of infectious diseases says in Newington virtual forum coronavirus vaccine could be available early next year; advises against contact sports

Published on Thursday, 30 July 2020 17:25
Written by Erica Drzewiecki


Trials for a covid-19 vaccine are now beginning in the United States and a vaccine could be readily available to the public as soon as early next year, Hospital of Central Connecticut Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Virginia Bieluch told State Rep. Gary Turco.

The legislator, who represents Newington in the Connecticut General Assembly, spoke with Dr. Bieluch about the coronavirus pandemic on Facebook Live Thursday afternoon.

“I know it’s impossible to eliminate all risk until there is a vaccine,” Turco said, probing the doctor on her thoughts about the state’s reopening of schools and how residents can continue to protect themselves.

“I am so grateful right now that I live in Connecticut,” she said toward the beginning of their conversation. “The whole state has really gotten together to fight this virus … I think we are really fortunate to live where we are, watching the news and seeing what’s happening other parts of the country.”

The amount of cases in Connecticut is close to 50,000 as of the latest data released by state health officials. That’s still relatively low compared to states like California and Florida, both of which are nearing the 500,000 mark.

That’s no reason for residents to throw caution to the wind, according to Dr. Bieluch.

“I understand social distancing fatigue,” she said. “We’re human beings; we like to be with other people. It’s the responsibility of everybody in the state to keep the numbers down the way they are. We can’t let our guard down.”

It is possible to venture out and see family and friends safely if proper precautions are taken, with facial coverings the number one recommendation to protect yourself and others.

“Whether Connecticut stays the way it is depends on all of us,” Bieluch said. “If we continue to social distance, wear our masks and not travel to hot spots I think things will stay the same in Connecticut and we’ll be successful with sending our children back to school.”

Although hopeful students can return to classrooms this September, she still advises against certain activities.

“Unfortunately I think close contact sports are probably not going to be very safe at this point in time,” Bieluch said.

She urged young people especially to refrain from close contact in large groups, a known contributor of outbreaks in other parts of the U.S.

“You may not get very sick but you can bring this to your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and they can get very sick. They can die from this.”

Turco lost his uncle to the virus a few months back.

“For people who haven’t been personally affected by it they might think it won’t hit them, but as this continues to go on we have to take it as seriously as possible,” he said.

The National Institutes of Health in conjunction with the Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company Moderna launched Phase 3 clinical trials of an investigational vaccine this week. The trial, which will be conducted at U.S. clinical research sites, is expected to enroll approximately 30,000 adult volunteers who do not have COVID-19.

“They are going to introduce one Phase 3 trial a month,” Bieluch said. “The hope is several of these will work and be ready to distribute to the public…I’m hopeful by early next year.”

In her closing comments, Bieluch encouraged people not to avoid hospitals if they suffer a medical emergency.

“Please don’t put off medical care at this time because you’re afraid to go to the hospital,” she said. “Right now they are a relatively safe place to go. Every patient admitted is being tested to protect staff and other patients.”

Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at edrzewiecki@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Newington on Thursday, 30 July 2020 17:25. Updated: Thursday, 30 July 2020 17:28.