Photo of covid-19 virus magnified under a microscope with the text, "COVID-19 Why it Matters: Vaccine protect against variants?"

Video COVID-19 Why it Matters: Part 16, Will the vaccine protect against new variants?

This video series features UW-Green Bay’s Immunologist Brian Merkel on COVID-19 and Why it Matters. This series empowers viewers with knowledge to help them navigate through the pandemic. Merkel has a Ph.D. in Microbiology & Immunology from the Medical College of Virginia. He is an associate professor in UW-Green Bay’s Human Biology & Biology programs and has an appointment at the Medical College of Wisconsin Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He will be responding to a number of questions related to COVID-19 and try to get behind the “why” it’s important to be educated in your decision-making as we navigate the pandemic together.

Part 16: Will the vaccine protect against new COVID-19 variants?

Video Transcript – COVID-19 Why it Matters: Part 16, Will the vaccine protect against new COVID-19 variants?

Hi, I’m Brian Merkel, Microbiology and Immunology, and I am here to talk about why COVID-19 matters to you.

We get asked quite a bit these days has to do with this new variant the so-called UK strain of COVID-19. We play a role in this. Yes, the virus is unstable but the less that we comply with the 3W’s, wearing masks, watching our distance, and washing our hands, the more opportunities we give this virus to do these kinds of things.

What we know about the UK strain is that it’s about one and a half times more contagious than the original strain which, was already highly contagious. We are concerned about that, but you need to know that the 3W’s still work for this particular strain, too. What we know about the UK strain, fortunately, is that if you’re vaccinated, through prior exposure to COVID-19, either through naturally being exposed or being exposed through immunization, this will give you the protection against the UK strain as well.

So, it just means that we really have to commit to compliance and adhere to the safeguards that are recommended as difficult as that is right now because this is getting very tiresome. But we don’t want to provide additional opportunities for this virus to become something slightly different.

COVID-19 Why it Matters Video Series:

Introduction with Brian Merkel https://youtu.be/M-yYPSPk30Q

Part 1: What are viruses and where did this one come from https://youtu.be/DYbiIv8ICgs

Part 2: Two main types of viruses https://youtu.be/O-OVk3rx96s

Part 3: Why is this virus serious? https://youtu.be/EDFyNN8i5G4

Part 4: Why wash hands/wear mask? https://youtu.be/FlcAvlt876Y

Part 5: I’m young! Why should I care? https://youtu.be/TDrEV_beY1U

Part 6: Can pandemics be stopped before they start? https://youtu.be/lgWnJZNYbFI

Part 7: Pandemic is not local, why wear a mask? https://youtu.be/IG3Sl3q-xH8

Part 8: Why does everyone need a flu shot this year? https://youtu.be/DGpBFj0fJkA

Part 9: What is the science behind a vaccine? https://youtu.be/eQ3FclkYaQo

Part 10: Where can I find accurate information? https://youtu.be/pLMlU5Xnkgo

Part 11: What type of mask should I wear? https://youtu.be/gCFHxQvkVYE

Part 12: Why HUGE COVID-19 spikes in Wisconsin? https://youtu.be/OuqmXvrDApY

Part 13: Fall break, protect yourself & others https://youtu.be/h21Ed_bBTE4

Part 14: Why is COVID-19 Testing so Important? https://youtu.be/Fr9VJZZrTE0

Part 15: What are COVID-19 Antibodies? https://youtu.be/J2lfJzoUEHI

Part 16: Will the vaccine protect against new COVID-19 variants? https://youtu.be/5l58jEZv3NQ

Reminder: You are welcome to attend the Tiny Earth Winter Symposium

In addition to celebrating the research efforts of students around the world including our own UW-Green Bay students, this year’s Tiny Earth Winter Symposium, Dec. 14-15 via ZOOM is focused on public health emergencies and the inequities associated with them. A panel of experts will convene on the second day of the symposium (December 15) to discuss public health emergencies and solutions to address them. The inequities of public health, as well as scientific literacy, will be featured topics.  Symposium participants will then have an opportunity to engage in a discussion around actions we can take in our communities to spread awareness of the challenges and solutions to address them. This is timely for many reasons, including the inclusivity efforts taking place on our own campus, as well as the management of the safety issues related to COVID-19 on our campus and in our community. Chancellor Alexander was chosen by the steering committee to provide the welcome on December 15 in recognition of his contributions in these areas. The Symposium is a great opportunity to showcase the value of partnerships to mitigating large problems to a wide audience. Tiny Earth represents the realm of what is possible when innovative partnerships emerge for the greater good.  The symposium wholly reflects the value of collaboration for this purpose. You are invited to join. Registration is free for students and the community.

UW-Green Bay students take a closer look at public health emergencies

UW-Green Bay students are showcasing research presentations that focus on antibiotic resistance and public health emergencies. This year’s winter symposium will be held virtually on Dec. 14 and 15. UW-Green Bay Prof. Brian Merkel joined Good Day Wisconsin to talk about the event and how it factors into the coronavirus pandemic.

Tiny Earth Symposium

Tiny Earth (International) Winter Symposium Offers Giant Perspective on Antibiotics and Public Health Emergencies

Green Bay, Wis.—Student researchers take the stage (virtually) for the Tiny Earth Winter Symposium, Dec. 14-15, 2020. While last year’s event was showcased at the Lambeau Field Atrium, a virtual environment makes this year’s showcase no less valuable, as this event is a centerpiece of the collaborative and innovative efforts of students across the globe, working together to mitigate the global public health crisis of antibiotic resistance.

The Tiny Earth Winter Symposium is free and open to the public with a Zoom registration at https://tinyearth.wisc.edu/tiny-earth-2020-winter-symposium/.

The Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and founder of Tiny Earth, Jo Handelsman, will kick off the symposium on Dec. 14 and a panel of experts will convene on the second day of the symposium (Dec. 15) to discuss public health emergencies and solutions to address them. The inequities and economics of public health, as well as scientific literacy, will be featured topics. Symposium participants will then have an opportunity to engage in a discussion around actions we can take in our communities to spread awareness of the challenges and solutions to address them, and most importantly, have a chance to share the research they have been working on all semester.

UW-Green Bay students join 10,000 other students from 300 other college and universities across 47 states and 27 countries, in some version of the Tiny Earth course which is aimed at discovering new antibiotics. The course started at UW-Madison in 2018. While uncovering new antibiotics is the end-goal, the discoveries made along the way are worth the effort. The course provides students with the opportunity for original thinking and scientific exploration, and can inspire them to pursue STEM careers. Last year’s event at Lambeau Field was attended by 550 citizens from the state of Wisconsin.

UW-Green Bay Biology Prof. Brian Merkel, teacher of the course at UW-Green Bay and co-chair of the international event, says the symposium is important during this pandemic.

“It’s a great opportunity to showcase the value of partnerships to mitigating large problems to a wide audience. For my part, Tiny Earth represents the realm of what is possible when innovative partnerships emerge for the greater good. The symposium wholly reflects the value of collaboration for this purpose.”

Students get their own soil sample to test. They isolate bacteria, conduct gene sequencing, Merkel says. “The students realize they are part of something that’s bigger than them and they’re contributing to an international effort. This goes beyond a celebration of research. This is a visionary idea to help our students get excited about their STEM careers while building an international network.”

Merkel said that without question, participation has often jump-started his students in paths toward research, medicine, and more. Merkel is available for media interviews. Reach out by e-mail at merkelb@uwgb.edu.

About the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a comprehensive public institution offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs to more than 8,500 students with campus locations in Green Bay, Marinette, Manitowoc and Sheboygan. Established in 1965 on the border of Green Bay, the University and its campuses are centers of cultural enrichment, innovation and learning. The Green Bay campus is home to one of the Midwest’s most prolific performing arts centers, a nationally recognized 4,000-seat student recreation center, D-I athletics, an award-winning nine-hole golf course and a five-mile recreational trail and arboretum, which is free and open to the public. This four-campus University transforms lives and communities through student-focused teaching and research, innovative learning opportunities, powerful connections and a problem-solving approach to education. UW-Green Bay’s main campus is centrally located, close to both the Door County resort area and the dynamic economies of Northeast Wisconsin, the Fox Valley region and the I-43 corridor. UW-Green Bay offers in-demand programs in science, engineering and technology; business; health, education and social welfare; and arts, humanities and social sciences. For more information, visit www.uwgb.edu.

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Video: UW-Green Bay professor (Brian Merkel) answers coronavirus vaccine questions – FOX11

UW-Green Bay Professor of Human Biology Brian Merkel talks about why it takes time to develop a vaccine, how health professionals will know it works and if the general public should feel safe taking it once it becomes available. Source: UW-Green Bay professor answers coronavirus vaccine questions – FOX11

A close up photo of a student using their smartphone to take a photo of the bacteria scene in their microscope in Advanced Microbiology class, as they exam soil to distinguish and classify bacterial species in the Biology Lab inside Lab Sciences Building at the UW-Green Bay campus on October 21, 2020.

Photos: Advanced Microbiology Lab at the Green Bay Campus

Students in Advanced Microbiology class, GRAM stain soil samples on slides and exam soil to distinguish and classify bacterial species. Students and faculty are able to continue their work in the Biology Lab inside the Lab Sciences building on the Green Bay Campus by adhering to all safety and COVID-19 safety protocols. Click to advance slideshow or view the album on Flickr.

Advanced Microbiology Lab UW-Green Bay Campus

– Photos by Sue Pischke

Alumna Halee Berens, who is working to become a physicians assistant through Concordia University.

Alumna Halee Behrens offers advice to students trying to get in to graduate school

Prof. Brian Merkel passed along this advice from alumni trying to get into graduate school. The following was shared by Halee Berens, who is working to become a physicians assistant through Concordia University.

Anything you think UW-Green Bay students should know?
Have confidence in yourself, you’ve come so far, you will make it! A trick to get shadowing hours: If you repeatedly get denied hours through the hospital shadowing service. Ask your grandparents or other relatives if they see a PA and have them ask if they would be willing to allow you to shadow. It worked for me twice! Get involved on campus! Serve in a leadership position of a club or participate in a research study. Volunteer. Make yourself a well rounded applicant. Start accumulating patient care experience hours early. CNA, EMT, ER tech, Lab tech are all popular ways to obtain hours. Healthcare experience is necessary and is very competitive when applying to schools. Scribe hours DO NOT count as patient care experience hours, however many of my classmates were scribes and they are very knowledgeable.

Being competitive?
Ever since high school you have been competing to be the best-of-the-best in order to be accepted into the next step of your education. Once you are accepted into a PA program, that fierce competition ends. Grades will no longer define who you are, you just have to pass the exam and the class in order to be successful. Once you graduate from the program and pass the PANCE no one cares about your grades. Your PA class will be like your family. We all help each other out in order to succeed by sharing ideas, making study guides, and answering questions. Being a PA is about being a member of a team, so you all work together to achieve the same goal.

Courses?
The following electives taken during my time at UW-Green Bay have proven to be beneficial for me in succeeding in my current classes:
Cancer Biology
Advanced Microbiology
Immunology
Human Anatomy (cadaver) Lab

My #1 piece of advice:
To those of you debating whether to apply to school as a junior or wait until after you graduate: Take the gap year. You never know what opportunities may come to you your senior year. You may take a new class that sparks your interest, participate in research and present at symposiums, become nominated for a university award, or achieve that honor roll status upon graduation that you have worked so hard to obtain. If you wait to apply until after graduation, all of your achievements from senior year will be included and can make you stand out compared to other candidates.

Take your time, obtain experience, make some additional money to pay for school, and relax for awhile, because once you begin the program, it is about 26 months of accelerated nonstop education. The youngest students in my class are 23 and our oldest is 40. There is no set time you need to apply. Do it when you are truly ready.

UW-Green Bay student shares hospital frontline experience; pride in the Phoenix family

UW-Green Bay senior Carolyn LaTour (Human Biology) shares her observations as a surgical technician in a local hospital. Concerning for her are PPE and staff shortages, and what increased COVID-19 cases can mean to local healthcare. She also shares her pride in her classmates and Phoenix family members for working to keep COVID-19 infection rates low on the four UW-Green Bay campuses.


My name is Carolyn LaTour. I am a senior at UWGB, and I’ve been working in healthcare for the past nine years as a surgical tech and a surgical first assist. I am majoring in human biology here at UWGB in hopes of becoming a physician assistant in the future.

As a surgical tech we get the operating room ready in the morning and throughout the day for surgeries and as a surgical first assist I assist the surgeons in the operating room as well.

My observations throughout the pandemic, at the hospital specifically, have been that we are low on our PPE and other supplies that are needed in the operating room and throughout the hospital. We’ve been short on staff throughout the pandemic the shortages in PPE and supplies is very stressful. We have to be very mindful of how much PPE we’re using and to preserve it throughout our day and shifts.

As COVID progresses, I do believe that we’re going to have to cancel more of our scheduled cases, unfortunately, due to the increased volume and the limited number of beds that are in the hospitals.

As part of the campus community and being a Phoenix, I’m very proud of the numbers and the low infection rate that we have at UWGB right now on campus. It just shows that we as students are taking this very seriously to ensure that our education in our classes and our in-person labs are still going to be going on.

To my fellow classmates and students, I just keep saying to wear your mask. Keep wearing your mask because you don’t know how it’s going to affect you, your family, your friends or our fellow classmates. We just want to keep everyone safe and to ensure that our education is still going to be present here, that in-person campus lectures are still going to go on.

As students we should feel very responsible as our contribution to the community with keeping the infection rates low. If we’re wearing our masks and keeping social distancing, at least you know you’re doing the part in the community and keeping the hospital infection rates lower.