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January 16, 2022 29 mins

Ryan Gorman hosts an iHeartRadio nationwide special featuring Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research for the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Marks offers the latest information on the Omicron variant and the COVID-19 vaccines. Trovon Williams, VP of Marketing and Communications for the NAACP, also joined the show to discuss the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to I Heart Radio Communities, a public affair special
focusing on the biggest issues impacting you this week. Here's
Ryan Gorman. Thanks so much for joining us here on
I Hear Radio Communities. I'm Ryan Gorman, and we have
some important conversations lined up for you coming up. In
a moment. I'll talk to a top official at the
f d A about the COVID nineteen vaccines and what

we know about the omicron variant. Then I'll check in
with Travan Williams, the vice president of Marketing and Communications
for the Double A CP. He's joining me to discuss
the life and legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Right now, to get things started, I'm joined by Dr
Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and
Research for the Food and Drug Administration. Dr Marks, thanks

so much for coming on the show. And before we
get to all things COVID, what exactly does your department
do within the f d A. Yeah, So, the Center
for Biologics Evaluation Research is part of the FDA that
actually does apply scientific research and does regulatory review and
approval of vaccines, blood products, cell tissue and gene therapy.

And comparing the work that you've done on these COVID
nineteen vaccines to previous vaccines. Can you talk a little
bit about how extensive the process has been in evaluating
the safety and efficacy of the COVID nineteen vaccines. Yeah,
I think it's important for people to know that, UM,
the diligence that's gone into evaluating the COVID nineteen vaccines

is every bit um as thorough as what has been
done for all of our previous vaccines. There have been
no corners cut and in fact um because so many
senior staff members have been looking over things here. If anything,
I think we've had an additional uh some sometimes you

say an additional pair of eyes UM on things. So UM,
I think we can be confident that what what has
come through this process our vaccines that meet or exceed
our standards UM for UM preventative vaccines that we've set
over decades. And now that people have been vaccinated upwards

of one year, can you talk a bit about how
you've been following those who have been vaccinated and how
that uh information has added to the mountain of research
that you have on these COVID vaccines. It's great questions.
So we we we can look at the safety profile
in people who have been vaccinated over time, and we

understand UM that the effects of these UH COVID nineteen
vaccines u UM have proven them to be very safe. UH.
The m RNA vaccines UM have really proven, which have
been the most widely used in the United States, have
proven to have of um UH side effects that we

understand now. Over the course of that year, UM we
UH initially identified and mitigated a risk for kind of
immediate allergic reactions, and then we understood UM this UH
small risk for a rare complication called myocardidis, particularly in
younger males. UM and UH I think that that year

of experience has been very helpful. It also has helped
us understand the duration of protection from these vaccines and
what you get from protection. UM. I think it's really
important for people to understand that although there's all this
talk about the waning of protection over time, we still
know that the vaccines, even a year later, are helping

to prevent the most serious outcomes from COVID nineteen, such
as hospitalization and depth. And that's that's really important, so
that people we don't get kind of lose the loose
sight of the fact that these vaccines UH still are
doing what they're supposed to be doing. UM. And granted,

it's great to get boosted so that UM UH so
that you have less chance of getting any form of COVID.
But the most the most essential thing here preventing UH
serious outcomes UM is is why people who even haven't
been vaccinated yet should still go out and start to

get vaccinated. And of course this isn't something that's just
happening here in the United States. Do you also keep
an eye on what other countries are seeing based on
the vaccines that they're administering. Yeah. Absolutely, And in fact,
there is very few weeks that go by where we're

not having interactions with our global regulatory counterparts. I had
one today already UM about what's going on globally. And
that allows us to actually see the effect UM on
safety of these vaccines, not just in UH hundreds of

millions of doses, UM, but in getting now for combined
for the UMU for the m RNA vaccines into what
are billions of doses so UM it allows us to
really understand the safety profile these vaccines UM very thoroughly
UM and understand that there's you know, understand that there's

not some safety signal coming out UM that we have
missed here in the United States. I'm joined by Dr
Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation of
Research at the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA authorized
and the CDC has recommended boosters for children ages twelve
and older. Do you expect a similar change for children

five to eleven years old in the near future? You know,
that's something we'll be looking at and at the right
time when we have the information, UM, we will UH,
we will make that decision. Right now, those that age
group still relatively early on after they received vaccination, so
we're still waiting for some of the additional data to

come into help make that decision. But it's certainly on
our radar screen. And what can you tell us about
when or if a COVID vaccine might be authorized for
children under the age of five? Are there different processes
to get vaccines to prove for younger children? So the

processes are very similar, and that we have to have
the right amount of information on the safety, uh and
the effectiveness and obviously, UM, there's a lot of sensitivity
about vaccinating the youngest children, so we want to make
sure we get it right. That said, is the current
O macron wave coming across the country, the disproportionate or

what appears to be disproportionate effect on the youngest in
the population was getting hospitalized. We feel the urgency about
the need to try to have the availability of a
vaccine for those under five. UM. We are working with
the manufacturers very actively, UM and UH it's our hope

UM that we will be able in the coming weeks
to be able to have some type of an authorization
UM fully consistent with the safety and effectiveness standards UM
that we've come to expect for UM the vaccines. So UH,
stay tuned on that one. I'm Ryan Gorman, joined by

Dr Peter Mark's, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation
and Research at the Food and Drug Administration. Can you
talk us through the reason that the time rahim on
booster doses for fiser and now Maderna are shortening to
five months after that primary series. Does does that mean
and you kind of alluded to this earlier, that vaccines

are losing their effectiveness more quickly than originally thought or
is it related to the current omicron variants. So it
has to do with a combination of a little bit
of loss of UH the antibody tigers. That's the protective
immunity that one has over time, but more so the

fact that this omicron variant is different enough that it
makes it more difficult for the current vaccine to wipe
it out when one is infected with it. So UM,
by by reducing that time interval for boosters, we are
hopefully increasing the chance that people UM will have the

type of immunity that is necessary UM to at least
make sure that they don't have UH a significant infection
with omicron and hopefully to make it so that they
don't have O macron entirely. When we first receive a vaccine,
correct me if I'm wrong, but that that's our body
learning how to respond to a foreign invader, if you will.

What does the booster do so the body when it
creates immune responses is actually very it's very smart. UM.
We come in contact with so many things that we
could develop immune responses to on any given day that
our bodies the first time it encounters something foreign, it

makes a good enough immune response just to deal with it. Now.
Now it also keeps a little bit of memory around
of what it's seen, and until one has seen something
more than once, usually two or three times, then the
body knows, hey, wait a second, this is something I
may be seeing often, and I need to keep vigilance

here and I'm going to keep a more robust immune
response going. So the body tries to save energy by
not making a big immune response against everything that comes across.
It only makes big immune responses um when it sees
a threat that's significant and that is going to be
longer lasting. And that's why you have this idea of

giving two or three vaccinations so that it mimics that uh,
that sense for the body that now it understands that, Okay,
I've seen something once, I see it now a month later,
and oh I see it even a couple of months later. Again.
The body then, uh, the memory that's present um is

then uh stimulated um uh. And it's a little bit uh.
It's a little bit like memorizing the phone number. The
first time. Maybe you won't remember it. The second time,
Uh you know, maybe you you will, and the third time, yeah,
you have a pretty good chance. That's the type of
thing that builds up and in this case, it's even
it's not a perfect analogy, because you even amplifies up

so that then when you see the virus um uh,
it really is poised um. After you're fully boosted to
try to the immune system is poised to try to
destroy it. And is that why even if someone was
already infected with COVID nineteen and may have some form
of natural immunity, is that why it's recommended they get

vaccinated as well? Exactly there's the problem here is that
just having a mild infection with COVID nineteen alone may
not give the body enough memory uh and enough of
a boost to protect you against other forms of COVID

nineteen that are circulating. So, just to make it specific,
if somebody had COVID nineteen in April, when we we
have the original Wuhan strains circulating, mostly they might say, well,
I don't need to get vaccinated. The problem is just
the way things have evolved, they may not have the
type of antibodies now that are anywhere close enough to

protecting them against uh the um omicon variants. So by
getting vaccinated, and usually one wants to get vaccinated about
if you've had COVID usually the CDC, and we recommend
to wait about a month after having COVID to go
get vaccinated. By getting vaccinated, one stimulates the immune system
to have a really robust response um to fight off

of the vaccine. So the the having COVID once serves
perhaps like like an initial vaccination and then you're coming
back and getting vaccinated um to boost that that immunity.
I'm joined right now by Dr Peter Marks, director of
the Center for Biologics Evaluation of Research at the Food
and Drug Administration. If a vaccinated person is already sick

with COVID, do you still recommend getting a booster shot?
And how long would you need to wait after you
test positive for COVID before getting a booster So if
somebody who's vaccinated comes down with covid um, this is
a good time to talk to your healthcare provider because
there could be specific circumstances here, but in general, um,

if it's been several months since you're initial series of
vaccines to get COVID, probably you're going to be looking
at trying to wait as at least about a month.
But again it's a good idea to go ahead and
talk to your healthcare provider about the right time for
that vaccination. Is there a reason that with this omicron
variant we are seeing what seems to be more breakthrough cases,

more people who have been vaccinated getting infected with COVID nineteen. Yeah,
us that that that is exactly um, it's it's exactly.
The issue here is that this particular variant UM is
not as sensitive to the antibodies that are generated by

the current vaccines, and that means that um UM, when
people are further out from having been boosted, they get
more susceptible um to getting um this variant. Now, it's
important to note, and I say alluded to this earlier
on that the good news is that even if you

do get some O macron after you've been vaccinated, the
likelihood that you're going to get a serious case of
it is very low. Um. Those that if you look
right now, people who are in hospitals with macron um
are people who have not been vaccinated. Vaccination is gives
you very good protection. It's just that because it's not

it's not perfect. Because of the need to have the
higher levels of antibodies to eliminate omicrons, that uh, some
people don't get or some people lose after time. UM.
There are more of these breakthrough infections, but most of them,
thankfully are mild or some people don't even know they

have omicron. Particularly we're seeing this in college age students
where they just happen to be testing as part of
routine protocols and they turn up positive for omicrons despite
the fact that they don't even know they have anything
going on. So that that actually, although believe me as
as a public health for first professional, we'd love to

have vaccines that eliminated COVID nineteen, the virus that causes
COVID nine nineteen entirely. But barring that, UM, we'd like
to have vaccines that prevent people UM from getting serious complications.
And and the fact that we're doing that UM is
a really good thing and and it actually does say
that overall these vaccines UM are having a very positive

effect on this pandemic. And then final question for you,
and again I'm Ryan Gorman, joined by Dr Peter Marks,
the Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research
at the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA and CDC
have said that it's okay to mix and match the
vaccines now can you tell us how that works and
if it's a good idea or should people try to

stick to the first vaccine they got. Yeah, so I
think it's perfectly fine to stick with the vaccines that
you got the first time and to get the same booster.
But that being said, there is what we've learned is
there's no reason not um based on availability. If you've
gotten one m r and a vaccine, it's fine to

get the booster for the other m RNA vaccines. UM.
The same thing goes with if one has gotten the
Yanson UH which is a viral e vectored vaccine, it's fine,
absolutely fine to get UH an m rn A vaccine
as a booster either of them. I think we don't
yet know whether there's some combination here, um, but I

think the it's it's perfectly reasonable. And I can say
on a personal level kind of in my UH, in
my family at least, everyone kind of stuck with what
they got the first time. Um when they've gotten boosted. Um.
But um, again, if the the the the answer should
be if you have the opportunity to get a booster

and it just happens that they don't have the one
that you got the first time. It's perfectly reasonable to
get UM another vaccine as a booster. Dr Peter Mark's
director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at
the Food and Drug Administration with the latest and the
COVID nineteen vaccines. Dr Marks, thank you so much for
the time and insight. We really appreciate it. My pleasure today.

Thank you all right, and finally let's turn to my
next guest, Travon Williams, Vice president of Marketing and Communications
for the n double A c P. Tremont. Thanks so
much for taking a few minutes to join us in
advance of Martin Luther King Junior Day, and I was
hoping we could start with some perspective provided by you
as to why this day and why remembering the life

and legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Is so important. Ron,
Thanks thanks again for having me a pleasure to be
with you, uh having this very important conversation. And I mean,
in the simplest form, this day is so significant because
it speaks to speaks to progress, it speaks to intentionality UM,
and it speaks to UM a long history that is

that this country has had to UM acknowledging many respects,
but then also um celebrated many respects because of the
work of Martin US the King and several others throughout
this period of time. It's a it's a day. Why
me try to relegate to day to a day of
day off, our day of relaxation. It really should be
a day committed to service. H. Martin Luther King Dr
Marls dedicated his life to the service two actions on

behalf of his community, and so on this day in particular,
we should honor his legacy, honor uh, the the noble
work that he did for so many years by getting
out and helping our community as much as possible. That
that should be the foundation of what this they really
means to our communities. And for you personally looking back
at the work that he did and all that he accomplished,

what is it that stands out to you most? Really
the thing that the thing it comes to me comes
to mind to me in particular, is the the age
right UM, so many things Dr Marluza King was able
to accomplish this as a very young age. UM. We
can't put we cannot put an age on progress. We
cannot put an age on advancement. And I think that

when that's one of the things that we we don't
get years back, UM, and when we have these thoughts
about helping and and and being involved in our community
and helping our brothers and sisters and our neighbors, UM,
we should do it now. Don't have the luxury of waiting. UM.
There is no perfect time to do the right thing.
We should just do it when it feels right. And
that's That's one of the things that's always stuck out
to me is that he didn't wait for UH the

appropriate time. He did it when it made the most
sense to him. When when it when it was most
urgent to him on behalf of this community, he moved.
And I think that's something that we can all gain
such an amazing amount of strength from. And knowing that, UM,
at the moment we feel that that urging to help
our brothers and sisters, to UH, to lend ourselves to
our neighbors, we should do it today. There were a
lot of people who wanted to see change take place

back then. What was it about him in particular that
led to so much success and and really made him
such a focal point of the movement. I think it's
so great about that is the fact that you know
what we find and we've we've even seen it in
the common day today. There's a lot of emotions associated

with the things that we need to see progress take
place within our community, these holistical ways throughout this nation. UM.
I think Dr Ron Luther King had had a great
way of pulling in the emotions that resonated with our communities,
but not leaving it as its just your emotions. He
had planned, he had action, had visions, and he never
did that alone. There were always collaborations was within people

within the civil rights um movement itself that helped and
pushing forward a vision on behalf of the communities that
have been served. So in many respects, it was him
leaning in understanding the importance of the emotions that people feeling,
because the emotions that people are feeling both then and
now are very real. But it's about turning those emotions
into actionable things that we can do. And that's what

I think was one of the things that he became
the convening space of a kind of a central point
within the central the civil rights movement because he was
able to take the emotions and tie back the accents
that people could look forward to and say, this means
that we're accomplishing something. They can see the progress through
the vision that he was helped in laying out on
behalf of the civil rights movement. And I think that's
I we honor him at such a manner on this day.

I'm Ryan Gorman, joined by Travon Williams and double A,
CP vice President of Marketing and Communications. We're talking about
Martin Luther King Junior Day. Now. He has the federal
holiday set aside in his name to remember his work
and in the service that he provided to this country.
But can you spend a moment, uh telling us a

little bit about some of the other key individuals who
were right by his side in this movement, in this
fight for equality. You know, it's funny you asked that Ryan,
I had the privilege. I'm just getting back into d
C recently, but I spent some time UM down in
Atlanta listening to President Biden and President Colin Harris speaking

UM on the campuses or the quad as they call it,
bear in Clark, Atlanta, Morris Brown College, Morehouse Sellman speaking
about the importance of voting rights and had the ability
to look around a look around, you know, the the
audience itself and see individuals to Jesse Jackson, see UM,
you know, fraternity brothers and civil rights icons like Andrew Young, individuals,

and and also being in the in the space where
you know, great great UM congressional leaders like John Lewis
served in the Atlanta space itself. Those are the names
that we recognize. Those are the names that were side
by side with Dr King. And that's why I means
while we honor his legacy and honor him in particular,
there's so many great people that sacrifice their lives, have

dedicated their lives to the discourse of action on behalf
of civil rights. UM, dedicated them lives to voting rights
accidents that we're seeing take place even right now. And
that's while we were down in Atlanta, UM, you know,
on behalf of protecting our voting right, something that Dr
Mark Luther King felt very very strongly about. But sitting
in a crowd seeing UM, you know, civil rights icons

like Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, UM, you know, walking across
campuses that you know Congressman John Lewis, the Honorable Johnathan
Congressman John Lewis walked across. Those are the names that
come to mind, But it also speaks to the fact
that there are future leaders that are still sitting in
that room that has yet to be manifested yet. So
while those great uh icons and foundational leaders within the

civil rights movement were there and we honor them, some
of the great next wave of civil rights leaders are
still sitting in those audiences today waiting to come forth.
And that's what's exciting about me is that someone has
to take this man so forward, and Dr Martin Luther
King's legacy is what leads us to being able to
do that on behalf of our communities. On that point,
we have younger generations who are very involved in social

justice issues these days. When you talk to them, do
you find that they are well aware of the work
that Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Did and they're actually
using some of the strategies that he employed back then
in their work now? I think so. I think so, Ryan,
you know. And the reason I say that is that
um being in meetings with young activist, young leaders, there's

always a clamoring to hear from old leaders. Why because
they have vision, they have foundation to have a way
of giving them wisdom and gems that they will need
in order to carry this forward. Um, they want to collaborate,
they want to progress, they want to they want to
do it, and they also have to recognize and have
the ability of recognizing now more than ever, that they

have to strategize. It's not just a demonstration the actions
that are associated with it, and so working with older leaders,
working with organizations like the n L A c P,
or an Urban League or a man and figuring out
how do we strategically make movement and progression on behalf
of our communities. That's what I think the young leaders
have have honed in on the two over the last

several years, and that's why I think they're gonna be
so successful and pushing and progressing things forward on behalf
of the community because it's not just an energy, it's
not just an ingenuity, but there's so much strategy that's
tied to it. I think they glean that from leaders
life Dr. Martin Luther King and that are taking it
forward into this next generation. I'm joined right now by
Travon Williams and Do w a CP vice President of

Marketing and Communications. While I have you here, let me
ask you about how COVID nineteen continues to impact Black
communities across the country. What can you tell us about
where things stand right now here in this new year. Well,
I mean, I think the the numbers bear bear frout
the data. The data tells the story in many respects Ryan,
And we know for a fact, um specifically at the

onset of this that, uh, the Black community in particular
was being disproportionately impacted by COVID nineteen, not just because
of the virus itself, but you know, this goes back
to some of the issues and things that Dr Martin
Luther King was advocating for and making sure that we had, um,
you know, access to health care, access to uh, you know,

the food and the nutritional value things that we needed
as well. All these things couple and come around when
when pandemics like they striking and find out what community
these are being hit the hardest. And so within the
African American community itself, we've had two As an end
a CP make it a absolute priority to inform our audience,

as a trusted voice within the Black community, inform my
audience as much as possible around the educations of science
and making sure that we can dispel many of the
rumors or misinformation is being shared. Um, and we have
to do it understanding that we have a major role
to play where we have an accountability to our community
to ensure that we're giving them the best information possible

on behalf of them. And so to your point, Uh,
you know, one of the major things that the Association
has been big on is is mobilization, you know, boots
on the ground. We've subsided and pulled some of that
back because we need to make sure that our community
is seeing faced as well. This pandemic. Uh, you know,
it's it's an unknown as an enemy that doesn't have
a face, and so we we scaled back a lot

of our mobilization efforts, face to face, different things of
that sort. But it allowed us, to that point about ingenuity,
to be much more creative around hosting our virtual town halls,
hosting our virtual conversations so that we could bring our
communities up to speed around what they need to know
and then also bring them up to speed on what
they need to do in order to take actions. Um.

We haven't been sitting on the sideline over the last
several years because of this, but we've been working actively
over the last several years to ensure that we are
UM informing our community but then arming them with actions
that they can take immediately. And we're excited about what
it means for the future of the ACP, But we
know that this COVID nineteen virus is not going anywhere,
and we need to make sure that we are doing
and doing everything and our best interest to ensure that

we are informing our community and giving them accimable things
that they can do to keep them community space, where
can people find out more information about your work on
the pandemic, and and just everything that the CPS focused on. Absolutely,
we we stood up a campaign UM in the last
few months actually called COVID No More, which is you

know COVID in the word no like as an information
no more, and it's a campaign dedicated specifically to arming
our communities with the best information on behalf of the
black community. You can just visit UM dot org and
you can find all the information there are. You can
just simply go to COVID not COVID dot assumes COVID
no More in your Google machine and you can find

all the information that we've UM been armed with over
the last several over the last several months, making sure
that we have the great best scientists, medical professionals leaning
in and talking about the impact of this on behalf
of the black community. And we're excited about what we've
been able to to arm our communities with Travan Williams,
vice president of Marketing and Communications for the Double A
c P. Trevon really appreciate the time, Thanks so much

for coming on the show. Ryan Pleasures All nine. And
that'll do it for this edition of her radio Communities.
I'm Ryan Gorman. Will be back the same time, same
place next weekend. Stay safe,
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