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White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Deborah Birx visits Aggieland

Texas A&M University and FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies on Tuesday welcomed Dr. Deborah Birx to Bryan-College Station.
Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 8:04 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2020 at 9:14 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - Texas A&M University and FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies on Tuesday welcomed Dr. Deborah Birx to Bryan-College Station.

Dr. Birx’s trip to Aggieland began with a site visit at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies to see its manufacturing facilities where it will mass-produce a COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Joining her for the tour was Chancellor John Sharp; Greg Hartman, Senior V.P. of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, and Fujifilm officials.

Texas A&M Health Science Center Chief Operating Officer Greg Hartman says being able to be a part of history and manufacturing a potential vaccine is huge for the community.

“It’s a huge step because it allows new scientists to work with each other, new collaborations, new innovations and then also just the fact that we are going to be a part of the city in the country that helps to deliver a vaccine to the entire nation. It is just a point of pride and I think it helps to put Bryan-College Station on the map,” said Hartman.

After the stop at Fujifilm, Dr. Birx was taken to the Texas A&M University campus for a series of closed-door briefings. There President Michael K. Young discussed the status of in-person classes, safety protocols for this weekend’s football game, and results of Round Two Random Testing Program.

Dr. Birx says that while she was on campus speaking with students and faculty, she was extremely impressed with how the COVID-19 pandemic is being handled at Texas A&M.

“The university has some of the lowest infection rates that the nation has seen. So when I talk to the students and said what are you doing that I can learn from, they said from the beginning the administration created the tone that the students would be responsible for the leadership and responsibility needed to ensure that they could stay in school,” said Dr. Birx.

Dr. Birx also touched on the need for more testing both at the university and in the community. She added that this is something she is seeing at every stop on her tour, and at the end of the day, that testing is key.

When asked about the distribution of a vaccine and what a timeline looks like, Dr. Birx discussed the need to have a vaccine that not just works but works to help keep the most vulnerable communities in the nation safe. That includes healthcare workers and those with comorbidities.

“A majority of the people who succumb to this, of the 200,000 Americans that we have lost, 94% of them had comorbidities. So we obviously want to vaccinate those individuals as fast as we can to protect them from this virus,” said Dr. Birx.

When it comes to the timeline of it, Dr. Birx believes that because of the lower risk in general for college students, they could be on the tail end of getting vaccinated.

“Presidents really need to plan for the spring semester to look similar to the fall semester and understand that the vaccine may not get to college students until late in the Spring,” said Dr. Birx.

The information gathered from Dr. Birx’s visit to Texas A&M will be used to put together a comprehensive plan for other universities that decided to stay completely online, to use to try to reopen in the Spring.

Dr. Deborah Birx takes a tour Tuesday at Diosynth Biotechnologies in College Station.
Dr. Deborah Birx takes a tour Tuesday at Diosynth Biotechnologies in College Station.(Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies,)

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