Dr. Donald Alcendor, Meharry Medical College

By Clint Confehr

NASHVILLE, TN — As a Meharry Medical College doctor embarks on a public awareness campaign about COVID-19 vaccines, state leaders have said they’ll be ready to inoculate medical professionals on the Sunday before Election Day.

Two top medical scientists at the medical college have said separately that having a vaccine against COVID-19 by Nov. 1 is impractical and impracticable. One said it’s irresponsible and he wants people to be willing to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, but only after it’s been through Phase III Trials and approved by the FDA as effective and safe.

“I’ve talked in the pulpit at churches, in barber shops, on military bases and to health providers and morticians,” said Dr. Donald J. Alcendor, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research at Meharry’s School of Medicine. He’s spoken about AIDS/HIV for 14 years.

Now, Alcendor will “disseminate information to communities who are hesitant” about a vaccine against COVID-19, he said. His on-line video presentations will be live so he can respond to questions. To schedule a program with Alcendor, contact him at dalcendor@mmc.edu.

Meharry President/CEO Dr. James Hildreth, an infectious disease expert on Metro’s coronavirus task force, is quoted by The (Columbia) Daily Herald as telling Yahoo Finance that having inoculations against COVID-19 by November is “scientifically infeasible” and “ambitious.” Alcendor said it’s too optimistic.

The U.S. Centers of Disease Control (CDC) told states to be ready Nov. 1 to receive and use a COVID-19 vaccine. Gov. Bill Lee and state Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said being inoculated is a personal choice. Piercey said any vaccine sent wouldn’t have completed traditional clinical trials that can take years to justify Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization. Americans are asking if the White House has a political motive for early approval.

Alcendor is “very concerned about FDA oversight when it comes to testing,” he said, “and I’m concerned about CDC oversight and policy when it comes to testing.” He speaks with authority having been on FDA’s Advisory Board for Antivirules. “I just don’t think they should become part of a political process, they were never intended to be.

“These are special times,” he continued, “but the idea of giving emergency use authorization to a vaccine that has not completed Phase III Clinical Trials is something that I think is unwarranted.”

Meharry Medical College is conducting two of five clinical trials on vaccines to inoculate people against COVID-19. Search tntribune.com for Meharry Testing Two COVID-19-Vaccines. To volunteer, call (615) 327-6820, or write to rsingh@mmc.edu. “You cannot get the virus from the vaccine,” said Dr. Vladimir Berthaud, principal investigator for those two-year studies.

President Trump has famously advocated hydroxychloroquine (arthritis medicine also used for malaria) as a coronavirus treatment.

“It was very clear that it was not beneficial to COVID- 19 patients,” Alcendor said. “In certain situations it put them at risk of death. I’m glad they revoked … authorization for the use of that medication.

“Then the Administration went out and found people with questionable credentials making strange claims about the glorious effects of hydroxychloroquine.”

“The pressure on the CDC and the FDA is something that I’ve never seen,” Alcendor said.

His Journal of Clinical Medicine report, “Racial Disparities-Associated with COVID-19 Mortality among Minority Populations in the US,” is available online.

Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...