‘Don’t be frightened by this:’ San Antonio doctor talks coronavirus vaccine hiccup

Dr. Ruth Berggren reacts to ‘mysterious illness’ in AstraZeneca vaccine trial

Dr. Ruth Berggren expresses optimism for a coronavirus vaccine in latest KSAT Q&A.
Dr. Ruth Berggren expresses optimism for a coronavirus vaccine in latest KSAT Q&A.

SAN ANTONIO – There are dozens of coronavirus vaccines currently in development. Recently, one of the trials put on by AstraZeneca was halted after a participant developed an “unexplained illness.”

In the latest KSAT Q&A, Dr. Ruth Berggren with UT Health San Antonio’s Long School of Medicine explains what this means for the future of a potential vaccine.

According to AstraZeneca, a woman who received the experimental vaccine reported symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis, a rare inflammation of the spinal cord. The symptoms are neurological and Berggren said it’s hard to tell if they were caused by the vaccine.

“The company did the right thing. They halted the trial and they’ll be reviewing it. So don’t be frightened by this. Be encouraged that clinical trials are being done with transparency and there are stopgaps and backstops to make sure that every one safety is protected,” she said.

This doesn’t change your hope and optimism that we are eventually going to get a vaccine?

“No, not at all,” Berggren said. “I believe at least 29 different vaccines being studied. So the fact that one trial got halted for one event that may or may not be related to the vaccine, that doesn’t change anything.”

What needs to happen for us to actually get this vaccine once it’s available?

The whole country needs to start getting serious about that planning,” she said. Berggren said getting Americans to stay update with vaccinations has always been a challenge. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than half of Americans get the flu shot each year.

“And so to get, as a nation, 300 million people promptly vaccinated [for the coronavirus] is going to take some time. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but we need to start focusing on those logistics and on a very local level, working with our metro health authorities and our state health authorities to make sure that we’ve got a plan in place so we can execute it rapidly when we get the vaccine,” Berggren said.

Catch these KSAT Q&A’s live at 6:30 p.m. and the Nightbeat Monday through Friday.

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About the Authors:

Steve Spriester started at KSAT in 1995 as a general assignments reporter. Now, he anchors the station's top-rated 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts.

Myra Arthur reports and anchors KSAT News at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Sharing the stories of her hometown is a dream come true. Myra graduated from high school in the Alamo City and went on to earn a journalism degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She came back home to San Antonio to join the KSAT 12 News team in 2012.