Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Stony Brook Medicine, Dr. Miguel Saldivar, wants residents to make vaccine decisions based on scientific information, rather than Internet speculation. Saldivar, who joined Stony Brook just months before the pandemic hit Long Island, sees improvement in the overall infection numbers, which have declined in recent weeks to about two to three percent from closer to five to six percent. In a wide-ranging interview (which can be seen online at tbrnewsmedia.com), Saldivar answered a host of questions.
TBR: Do you have any concerns about the number or percentage of people who are not lining up for vaccination?
Saldivar: In general, what we are more concerned about is the amount of misinformation that is out there. If you go on social media — if you go just on the internet, period — there’s a lot of people who are spreading lot of information that is really frankly inaccurate.
TBR: What are Stony Brook and others trying to do to counter misinformation?
Saldivar: There are a number of things we hear fairly frequently, probably the more common one I personally have heard, because Pfizer and Moderna are based on mRNA technology, everybody hears the term RNA and is worried that it’s going to change my genetic code and turn me into a mutant or cause a disease down the line. The first thing to understand about that, the way both of those vaccines work, it’s a set of instructions being given to the body cells, the moment it’s been delivered, the mRNA dissolves. It has no way of getting into the deeper part of the cells to change your genetic code.
TBR: Black and brown communities have a distrust of the federal government after some well known problems regarding Tuskegee Experiment and other issues. Is there broader acceptance now compared with a month or two ago?
Saldivar: Statistically, if you compare how this disease has affected minority communities, the risk of a severe outcome, hospitalization intubation and death is almost universally higher among minority communities. That has a number of factors, not just the disease itself. It’s also the fact that within those communities, it is more frequent to find some of the risk factors, meaning diabetes, obesity, preexisting pulmonary disease so on and so forth … What I have been personally involved with is reaching out to the community, we have found a lot of community centers have been very ready and willing to engage in a conversation. We have found places of worship to be wonderful places to have that conversation
TBR: What does the data tell you about the pandemic?
Saldivar: The last numbers I heard from the meeting this morning were between two to three percent positivity. We’ve been there for a week. Before that, we were staying pretty stable at like five to six percent or thereabouts. It looks like finally, this may be the effect of the vaccine, the numbers are finally starting to little by little trend their way down. We’ve been cautiously optimistic. There seems to be a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel.
TBR: You have a bachelor’s degree in classical guitar performance. How did you wind up in infectious disease?
Saldivar: Through the nonprofit circle, I landed a job with the medical center at UCLA. That’s where I met a very, very good friend and mentor. She was key to helping me shape the path. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of this profession.