Virtual VDC
September 1, 2021

the Future

What Doesn't Kill You
Makes You Stronger
Mutates and Tries Again:
SARS-CoV-2 Variants, Vaccine Efficacy,
and Boosters


Philip R. Dormitzer, MD, PhD

Vice President & CSO, RNA and Viral Vaccines
Worldwide Research, Development & Medical Vaccine Research & Development

Clubhouse Location:
A Zoom screen near you
Agenda: (all times Eastern time zone)
6:25pm — Grab a beer or a glass of wine from the fridge and get online
6:30pm — Meeting called to order in the usual way (ear muffs optional)
6:40pm — This is the part where some really excellent science is presented
7:30pm — Q & A
7:45pm — Adjourn, already dreaming of next month's program

Dear Vacciners,
Here's a good idea -- Let's all take a break from thinking about COVID, worrying about COVID, cancelling, re-making, and then re-cancelling plans because of COVID and … attend a VDC meeting about COVID!

Big sigh.

All the way up until it was time to start planning the 2021-2022 VDC season it looked like we could safely hold a COVID-free talk series because most of us still thought delta was just the name of an Atlanta-based airline (which, BTW, has emphatically cancelled all plans to revive their old slogan "Delta is ready when you are") and that 'variants' simply referred to the nuances of celebrity dating life.

But that was then, this is now, and in addition to having LEAPT out of the gate to become the Secretariat of the SARS-CoV-2 "variant of concern" horse race, delta is also the Greek symbol for 'change,' which is super appropriate given that delta has brought some BIG changes to the pandemic's impact this summer. See table below.

Because, as Shannon Downey -- aka Badass Cross Stitch -- said in an art piece that went viral*, "What doesn't kill us, mutates and tries again."

August 2021 COVID table

So, because NO ONE can resist the lure of garnering their very own Vaccine Dinner Club speaker's mug, we were able to secure Dr. Philip Dormitzer, Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at Pfizer, to get us up to speed on SARS-CoV-2 vaccine efficacy, variants, and the emerging hot topic of Fall 2021 … booster shots!

Speaking of … my friend John Altman (a VDC OG if there ever was one) wants to have a debate about the title of this month's talk (of course he does!). John writes:***

  1. If prior COVID-19 infection doesn't kill you or give you long Covid, it DOES make you stronger with respect to reinfection with a variant.
  2. We need to talk about whether the emergence of delta is driven by immune escape or by ongoing human adaptation of a zoonotic virus.
  3. We need to determine the relative contributions to the spread of delta of (1) waning immunity, (2) strain mismatch, and (3) the increased R0 of delta.

This is all the stuff the VDC was made for…. We may not have food this month, but who says we can't at least have a good food fight?

So… get ready, get set, GO!

Here is your VDC 2021-2022 preflight check-list.

  1. Forward this message to colleagues / ESI officers / post-docs / students / friends / anyone else on the planet you think might be interested in attending meetings of the Virtual VDC this year.
  2. If you can get one in between Hurricanes Fred and Henri, take an end-of-summer walk in the woods. Extra points if you spot the poison ivy before it spots you. And then read Colin Nissan's (really funny. also short.) "Tick Check" article from the New Yorker because checking yourself for ticks after going outside may be the only way to see what your body looks like covered in ticks.
  3. Register NOW for the 2021-2022 Virtual VDC season opener.

Dear People Who Had This Message Forwarded to Them,


The Vaccine Dinner Club:

  1. Is a 4,300+ member organization now in its 23rd year that exists to facilitate networking, dialogue, and collaboration between researchers, clinicians, policy makers, historian/journalists, and science-savvy members of the general public who are interested in vaccine need, history, policy, discovery, development, testing, deployment, use, and/or evaluation. Also in diseases that we WISH were vaccine preventable.
  2. Normally meets in person on the Emory campus for wine and cheese, a truly excellent science talk, and a casual buffet dinner but will -- for at least the first half of the 2021-2022 season -- meet online via Zoom (meetings will be recorded).
  3. Has two missions: 1) To advance the practice of vaccine science and 2) to have a really good time at our monthly meetings.
  4. Is THE place for inquiring minds to [virtually] be on the first Wednesday evening (usually) of every month during the academic year
  5. All of the above

If you picked "e: All of the above" -- Congratulations, We have a winner!
Read more about the VDC
and consider joining us online on September 1.

- Kimbi Hagen, EdD
VDC Director/Goddess

*Want to know what actually happens for a creator when a piece of her art goes viral? Read This.
[Disclaimer: The VDC has explicit permission from Ms. Downey to adapt her work for our VDC talk title].

**C19 figures are reported from

***Attention people who don't do science all day every day, here is a glossary of some of the terms in John Altman's email:

Immune escape: Adaptations that turbocharge a virus' ability to avoid being trapped and then trashed on sight by your immune system

Human adaptation: Adaptations that turbocharge a (zoonotic) virus' ability to successfully hijack and replicate in your (human) cells.

Waning immunity: The tendency of some vaccinated persons to experience less protection against disease with the passage of time.

Strain mismatch: [Bizarre analogy alert] … Imagine that a vaccine is designed to teach your immune system to respond every time it encounters a Covid virus that is wearing a little yellow sweater (OK, highly unlikely but bear with me here...). If a variant of Covid shows up wearing a green sweater, there is a strain mismatch between the vaccine and the Covid virus and your immune system may not respond as well to the threat posed by the variant.

R0 (pronounced "R naught"): a measure of how contagious a disease is as determined by the average number of people who will contract a disease from one person who has it. Just like in golf, the lower the R0 number is, the better.