COVID vaccine a game-changer


Commentary by University Research Corridor presidents Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Mark S. Schlissel and M. Roy Wilson

Published in The Detroit News Jan. 23, 2021

As COVID-19 case counts continue to rise across the United States, getting everyone possible vaccinated as soon as enough doses are available is vital to stopping this pandemic, reviving our national economy and getting children and college students back to in-person school.

The alternative is what we have now: high caseloads that are overwhelming our hospitals and health care workers, and millions of students able to attend classes only online. Our economy will continue to falter and layoffs will increase as the coronavirus makes it unsafe to shop and dine as we normally do. Family gatherings and large meetings will remain off-limits or, if held, become potential superspreader events.

As presidents of the three major public research universities that make up Michigan’s University Research Corridor — Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University — we’ve been on the front lines of battling the COVID-19 pandemic. URC researchers have worked to develop tests, treat the virus and create vaccines. We’re training thousands of physicians, nurses and other health care workers in dealing with the virus. We’re helping educators, business owners and government officials deal with the challenges of COVID-19.

As COVID-19 case counts continue to rise across the United States, getting everyone possible vaccinated as soon as enough doses are available is vital to stopping this pandemic, the university presidents write.

In undertaking these efforts, it has been helpful that all three of us have medical degrees in addition to experience as university leaders. Our backgrounds:

  • Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. is an expert in infectious diseases.
  • University of Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel is an immunology expert.
  • Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson has expertise in epidemiology and health disparities.

With this training, we’re familiar with the science and medicine behind a pandemic such as COVID-19, how vaccines work and how herd immunity develops.

When it is our turn according to CDC and state guidelines, we’re eager to get vaccinated ourselves. And we are urging all our students, staff, faculty and patients to do the same. We know vaccines have effectively stopped the spread of other bacteria and viruses, including those that cause the flu, tuberculosis, polio, smallpox, typhoid, measles, hepatitis, shingles and pneumonia.

Millions of people worldwide have benefited from these vaccines, and the COVID-19 vaccines are no different. Although they’ve been researched and rolled out in record time, that doesn’t mean they’re unsafe. They have been built on decades of investment in vaccine discovery and development, proven vaccine innovation and a focused global effort. They have been tested and proven safe and effective in studies gone over carefully by scientists trained in evaluating vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccines provide protection against a disease that has killed more than 400,000 of our friends, family members and co-workers across the nation and more than 2 million people worldwide.

Protecting the health of our students, faculty and staff has been the driving force behind our actions at all three universities since the pandemic began. We’ve focused our research on finding vaccines and treatments, developing better and faster COVID-19 tests, and on helping health care and essential workers get the personal protection equipment they need to stay safe.

Those efforts continue. But the COVID-19 vaccine is a game-changer that can stop the pandemic from endangering the lives and livelihoods of so many Americans. We’re urging everyone to get vaccinated, because we know it’s the only way to end this pandemic. 

Samuel L. Stanley Jr. is president of Michigan State University; Mark S. Schlissel is president of the University of Michigan; and M. Roy Wilson is president of Wayne State University.