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COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots Have Been Approved, But Pitt Study Continues

Covid-19 Vaccine
Ashton Jones
90.5 WESA

On today’s program: A University of Pittsburgh researcher is enrolling participants in a study to assess the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, even after the Biden administration approved booster shots to be distributed at the end of September; how housing advocates helped renters in the 48 hours between one eviction moratorium ending and another taking effect; and a look at how the city is improving its storm water capture system.

Study to investigate combination of COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots
(0:00 - 9:23)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced its recommendation for the distribution of COVID-19 booster shots on Wednesday. Booster shots will be available to those who have received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine eight months after their second dose. However, this shot still requires approval from the Food and Drug Administration, and research into booster shots is far from over.

One question under investigation is if the best protection comes from a booster of the same vaccine first given to someone, or if it’s better to get a different vaccine.

Dr. Judy Martin, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Vaccine Research, is trying to answer that question with an ongoing national trial.

“This is an adaptive study design,” says Martin. “So we continue to bring in additional vaccines over time to look at the combinations. We can also see some of the companies are making specific vaccines that are targeted for the variants, so as new products become available, we can examine those in combinations with the previous vaccines.”

Martin says antibody levels from initial vaccine doses are beginning to drop. Still, she says her study is focusing on the fact that the first two Pfizer and Moderna doses do offer a lot of protection.

“A year ago, we were nowhere near where we are today,” says Martin. “Now think of the millions of doses that have been distributed of a vaccine that was just beginning clinical trials at this time last year.”

The official end date for the study is May 2025, but Martin says her team will be able to share information about the participants’ immune responses within the next several months.

How housing advocates responded to a two-day lapse in the eviction moratorium
(9:25 - 17:27) 

Earlier this month, there was a lapse in the country’s eviction moratorium. One ban on eviction ended, and for two days, Allegheny County saw a spike in eviction filings.

On August second and third, there were 75 and 80 eviction filings, respectively. That’s more than a four fold increase from earlier this year, according to Carnegie Mellon University’s Create Lab.

For housing advocates, phones were ringing off the hook as tenants sought information and support.

“They [tenants] knew when the moratorium ended that they could possibly be evicted, and they did not understand that they did not have to leave their unit on that day,” says Marlease Bennett, communications team lead with Action Housing, an organization that advocates for affordable housing in Pittsburgh.

Bennett says she reassured callers that magistrates within Allegheny County were still complying with the moratorium at the time, and told tenants if they were evicted, they would receive notice, then would go through a hearing before having to leave their home.

“They weren’t actually blindsided [by the end of the moratorium], they’re just not aware of how the legal system works,” Bennett says of tenants.

As a liaison between landlords and tenants applying for rent relief, Bennett says she also has to assure landlords of how the process works, and the status of applications.

“The overturn of the eviction moratorium is frightening for a lot of people,” says Bennett. “But to be quite honest, most of them are so close to the finish line [in receiving rent relief], they don’t realize how close and they’re just frustrated.”

Bennett says she expects another spike in calls when the moratorium ends October 3.

A new approach to keep flooding at bay with green space
(17:29 - 22:30) 

Pittsburgh's sewer system was built in the 1800s for a much smaller city, and it is notorious for overflowing.

But 90.5 WESA's Susan Scott Peterson reports there's a new way to capture stormwater, hidden beneath the green grass of two new parks.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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