What the Heck? Ask an Epidemiologist(s)

As a chance to see friends, neighbors, and anyone interested in epidemiology and pandemics, Sharon McDonnell MD MPH and Gib Parrish MD will have a weekly zoom session to talk about the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. We enjoy our calls with our epidemiology students, the Yarmouth Community Coronavirus Neighborhood communicators and the Call Center volunteers so, to answer questions, and we want to hold a more regular event. Everyone welcome for all or part of the sessions! Bring your confusion and your ideas.

These sessions may have some brief presentations – “Cool things this week in epidemiology” – but we hope to leave most of the time for questions and discussion. Please feel free to put questions that you would like us to think about in the comments below and we will give them priority.

WHEN: Thursdays 4pm to 5:30 pm
WHERE: Zoom. Link: https://zoom.us/j/207536632 Meeting ID: 207 536 632

Background :
Sharon McDonnell BSN, MD, MPH., Yarmouth, Maine

Sharon received her BSN at the University of Florida, MD from the University of California, San Diego, and MPH from Johns Hopkins University.  After training in Family Medicine she went to Pakistan/Afghanistan to work with NGOs and then WHO in Geneva. She joined the US CDC as an EIS Officer and is board certified in Preventive Medicine and Public Health.   She has worked in the state health departments in Florida and Vermont. After CDC She was on Faculty at Dartmouth Medical School and has continued to do work in International Disease Surveillance and Response and epidemiology training.  She worked in Liberia for 2 years for the Ebola response with IRC and CSTE/CDC.  Currently she teaches epidemiology with the University of New Hampshire and consults with the Leadership Preventive Medicine Residency Program at the Maine Medical Center.  She helps co-found the Yarmouth Community Coronavirus Task Force in Yarmouth Maine.

Gib Parrish, M.D., Yarmouth, Maine

Gib trained in laboratory medicine, pathology, and epidemiology and spent 20 years at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the CDC, he worked on environmental health problems, improving mortality data, assisting state health departments with public health assessment activities, and improving national and state health information systems. After retiring from CDC,  he has worked as a consultant  on various population-health information-related projects, most recently on the Reportable Condition Knowledge Management system, which is identifying and evaluating potential cases of reportable conditions using data from electronic health records.

Published by sharon Mcdonnell

Medical Epidemiologist and Community Memeber

4 thoughts on “What the Heck? Ask an Epidemiologist(s)

  1. Thank you for taking the time to answer questions. Here are my questions (I realize that you may not have time to answer all of them or you may have answered similar questions before: 1. Of the 90 candidate vaccines under development, which do you believe are the most promising candidates?
    2. Walter Reed Army Institute of Research is supposed to have one of the top 15 candidates. They are prioritizing vaccine candidates that are based on platforms that have been in humans, e.g., ferritin. Can you comment more about vaccine platforms.
    3. In addition to a platform, a vaccine needs something an adjuvant, which enhances the vaccine’s effect. Could you tell us more about this requirement.
    4. How many vcccine candidates are in human trials?
    5. Assuming an accurate blood test for antibodies, we are currently unsure as to the level of immunity that is conferred by these antibodies or how long that immunity will last. Can you speak to that?
    6. Since, in the short term, we are more likely to see antiviral treatments can you speak to the status of that effort?
    7. What’s the best resource for tracking the worldwide status of antiviral therapy and vaccine development?
    8. I’ve heard it said that if there is any silver lining in this crises, it’s that the worldwide focus on vaccine development will lay the groundwork for us being better prepared for the next virus which could have both a higher transmissibility and mortality rate. Do you share this opinion?
    9. In your view what is the best way to balance mortality with achieving herd immunity?
    10. Is herd immunity the only way to achieve stability and the new normal?


    1. Hello, thanks for the comment.
      Here is a link to the clinical trials all over the world. search by key terms such as COVID and vaccine. I suspect you will really enjoy this.
      Thanks for participating in the call!


  2. have been thinking about the mask issues – here are some thoughts –

    1. Reward good behavior – we should be going beyond a simple ‘your doing the right thing for others’ – while this message is important and should be the core, it needs to be shored up with a lot of other activities – like monetary rewards such as gift cards, discounts, and other opportunities that have value to disparate communities (like I could actually envision contests for the longest verified public mask-wearing and winning the first moose hunt ticket). But simple rewards for shopping, buying gas, other public transactional activities with small rewards (and with the offer to donate this amount to the local food bank so as not offend others) will help normalize this behavior;

    2. Shame/anger is not a good message;

    3. Working with communities (schools, police, organizations) to provide everyday opportunities and activities that illustrate how easy it is to do the right thing – challenge them to come up with contests, activities, things to do, to model behavior;

    4. Behavior change is really hard, successes are few and failures frequent, but keeping track of things that are working, engaging people, and celebrating successes often and with media is important; and

    5. Patience, helping people to change behavior takes support, time, and patience.


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