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Atlanta Science Festival begins Saturday with talk on COVID vaccine in Black communities

By David Pendered

The Atlanta Science Festival that begins Saturday and runs for two weeks offers three events on the COVID-19 vaccine that could be helpful to both youngsters and adults. The first vaccine presentation is Saturday morning.

atlanta science festival, astronaut

The Atlanta Science Festival is in its eighth year of weaving together the whimsical and STEM subjects to capture the attention of youngsters. Credit: Kelly Jordan

The virtual event Saturday is to focus on the vaccine in the Black community. This is the full description, as provided by Emory University:

  • “Emory physician Zanthia Wiley, assistant professor in the School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases, will give a virtual talk on Saturday, March 13, at 10 a.m., entitled “COVID-19 Vaccines and Disparities in Black Communities: What You Need to Know.”
  • “Dr. Wiley, who is also the director of Antimicrobial Stewardship at Emory University Hospital Midtown, will discuss the importance of COVID-19 vaccination and the disproportionate effect that COVID-19 is having in minority communities. She will also take questions submitted directly by those attending the virtual talk. Wiley is a member of the Emory Department of Medicine’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council and the Emory Collaborative Community Outreach and Health Disparities Research Initiative.”

The two other pandemic-related events are:

In a prepandemic era, a station of microscopes enabled visitors to the Atlanta Science Festival to view things invisible to the naked eye. Credit: Kelly Jordan

  • March 16, at 6 p.m., “COVID-19 Vaccines and Disparities in Latinx Communities: What You Need to Know.” Emory physician Valeria Cantos, assistant professor in the School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases and an attending physician at Grady Memorial Hospital and the Grady Infectious Disease Clinic.
  • March 18, 7 p.m., A panel discussion on how COVID-19 vaccines work, led by Maryn McKenna, a leading infectious disease journalist and senior fellow in Emory’s Center fothe Study of Human Health, with panelists including Colleen Kraft, associate professor in Emory School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases and the director of Emory’s Clinical Virology Research Laboratory.

The festival’s theme this year is “Science Always Prevails.” By happenstance, President Biden highlighted the importance of science in the social fabric of the United States in his Thursday night address to the nation on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic:

President Joe Biden. Credit: whitehouse.gov

  • “The development, manufacture and distribution of the vaccines in record time is a true miracle of science. It is one of the most extraordinary achievements any country has ever accomplished.
  • “And we also just saw the Perseverance rover land on Mars. Stunning images of our dreams that are now a reality. Another example of the extraordinary American ingenuity, commitment and belief in science and one another.”

Meisa Salaita made a point similar to the president. She’s executive co-director of Science ATL, the non-profit organization that produces the Atlanta Science Festival and observed in a statement:

The Atlanta Science Festival is in its eighth year of endeavoring to spur interest in science among youngsters. Credit: Kelly Jordan

  • “The pandemic has heightened public awareness of the value of science. All of our partners, including Emory, have come together to keep the festival going strong, despite the challenges. Everyone is inspired by the knowledge that our mission of service to the community is more important than ever.”

The festival has become a rite of passage in metro Atlanta. Now in its eighth year, the event has drawn together more than 60,000 participants in some years. Last year’s event was shortened, but not halted, as the national shutdown began in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The cofounders of the event are Emory, Georgia Tech and the Metro Atlanta Chamber. The purpose is to raise awareness of the science-related research and businesses in the area, and to show potential career paths in STEM fields to youngsters.

Georgia Tech issued a statement that notes that this year’s event is designed to accommodate the social requirements established for the pandemic. More than 80 events are virtual, self-guided or set in the outdoors.

Notes to readers:

  • Josh Preston of Georgia Tech has created an interactive guide to events that is available here.
  • The Atlanta Science Festival has posted a schedule of events here.



David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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