Bistra writes:

Dear TWIV team,

I live in the US but I am writing to you from my beautiful hometown Varna in Bulgaria where my kids and I are spending time with my parents while I’m taking advantage of one of the few pandemic perks, working remotely. 

Sadly, despite dismal pandemic mortality last winter and a wide availability of all vaccines, Bulgaria has the lowest rate of covid vaccination in the EU despite. And even more sad is the fact that only 20% of Bulgaria’s health care workers are vaccinated. I’d like your advice on how to respond to two frequent covid vaccination objections I hear. 

1) Many worry about either an allergic reaction or cite existing autoimmune disorders as a contraindication to the covid vaccine, very often through the advice of their GP. Most recently a friend with lupus on corticosteroids was advised by a rheumatology physician to not get vaccinated because “the steroids were protective”. My understanding is that both statements are incorrect but being a lay person to this field, I naturally have doubts. I would love to hear your perspective and resources I can share for autoimmune disorders concerns. 

2) many believe prior infection protects them. Antibody count tests are done frequently by anyone despite (my observed) lack of understanding of the results’ meaning and often physicians seem to advise against vaccination until the antibody count “goes down”. Is there any merit to this claim? How does one convince people who’ve already had covid to vaccinate?

Thank you for the incredible and wonderful public service you provide. I’m grateful that I discovered your podcast last winter through the amazing Laurie Garrett. 

Kind regards, 


Maureen writes:

Dear Vincent, et al.,

Thank you for all you do with TWiV. I was fortunate to have been influenced by Vincent’s teaching and guidance when I was in graduate school. Vincent also graciously gave a talk at SUNY New Paltz, my home institution, about a decade ago. How lucky were we?! He is generous, smart and fun. The TWiV panelists also share these characteristics, and we are all so fortunate to have this podcast.

I had long wanted to teach a virology course, and I had the opportunity to do so for the first time in the spring 2020 semester.  What timing! I had started to listen to TWiV more regularly in the fall of 2019 so as to be better prepared for my new class. Then, of course, SARS-CoV-2 began its march across the globe. It was such a challenge to keep up with the literature and other developments, but TWiV helped me decide which research developments to share with my students. My TWiV education also helped when I participated on a panel for a local venue, the Rosendale Theatre Collective. In November 2019, our Rosendale Theatre Science on Screen committee chose to organize a panel discussion to follow an (in-person) April showing of Contagion. What timing!. The movie and panel were obviously switched to a virtual format and the focus was on SARS-CoV-2, not the unnamed virus that starred in the film. My co-panelist and I gave a shout-out to TWiV.

I have also assigned portions of TWiV in my Microbiology and Virology classes. I think the most significant of those assignments included the episode with Robert Fullilove. Those episodes that diverged from regular virology topics were powerful and important. Fullilove’s perspective provided so much more than I could have ever communicated. I hope I am clearly conveying how grateful I am for TWiV.

Early in the pandemic, many friends asked me for a good source of information to learn about SARS-CoV-2 developments, and TWiV was my top recommendation. One of my Chemistry Department colleagues became a devotee. Our bike rides continue to include conversation about what was discussed on TWiV that week. Not everyone is tuning out when you discuss non-COVID topics! Another topic we have discussed is: How does Brianne manage to find time for participating in podcasts while also teaching at a PUI? It has taken me so long just to find the time to write to you all. I hope she has a course release.

I have fallen woefully behind on TWiV episodes as I have not been doing much of my podcast listening activities (mowing the lawn, long trips in my (manual) car, etc). A recent episode for me answered one of my burning questions: Did Alan and I overlap at Columbia? I have thought he seemed familiar, but noted that regularly listening to the podcast might cause that sense of familiarity.  But it turns out we did overlap-I was part of the Fred Alt lab group. Alan must have attended the Halloween or other parties on the 6th floor?

For your entertainment, I am sharing a link to a video made by the drummer in our all-faculty band (Biology, Physics, Sociology and Psychology (note that none of us are in the Music Department)).  We are Questionable Authorities, and that is also the name of our band. In the spring 2020 semester, as a way to recognize the challenges of moving to a remote college experience, our drummer made a video of us performing Dancing with Myself.  That feat was topped last fall by his video of us performing All Star, as a way to thank our students for having been diligent about wearing masks.  Both were recorded individually and remotely, of course. The All Star chorus lyrics were changed to:

Hey now, put your mask on
Keep your distance, stay safe.

And later updated to:

Hey now, get your vax on
No resistance, stay safe.

The other alternate lyrics, including references to Fauci, begin at just under 1 min: If you have some free time and could use a giggle, check it out.  We have been testing out alternate lyrics to Hit Me with Your Best Shot (Infect me, It’s all in vain, I’ve got antibodies from mRNA). Though, our best alternate lyrics song would be the New Paltz alma mater set to the Dead Kennedy’s Holiday in Cambodia. Vincent, you are welcome to grab your guitar, visit New Paltz again, and jam with Questionable Authorities. Hope some of this made you smile, because TWiV has definitely made me smile.

With gratitude,
Maureen Morrow

Charles writes:

Hello TWiVers;

Sunny and 84F (29C) heading to over 90.  In other words a typical summer day in Chapel Hill.

Encouraging a lay person to take Dr. Racaniello’s virology course can have some unintended consequences.  Like me asking some strange questions after watching just two lectures.

Is the Delta variant more fit because it has a lower particle to PFU ratio?  I Googled and could not find the answer.  I did find some nice papers on lateral flow tests and other interesting subjects.



Glenna writes:


Independence, KY

Jodi writes:

Hello Vincent and TWiV Gang!

I’m writing from Oakland, CA where it has been mostly cool this summer, in the low to mid-60s with some overcast days mixed in with some very lovely sunny days. Overall not a hot summer for us. It was 74f/23c and sunny today, and I believe it will be as warm tomorrow. 

I have been enjoying your podcast since stumbling upon it during the pandemic in May 2020. I can’t listen to every single show, but I try to tune in at least once a week. You all have kept me sane during one of the strangest times of my 47 years. Also, I never thought I would have an interest in microbiology or learning about viruses. I’ve always been more drawn to the social sciences and the arts. Well, you have definitely gotten me interested in virology! Keep up the great work! 

I am writing because I would love to hear your thoughts about the CDC’s recent “interim public health recommendations for fully vaccinated people.” I’m curious about this because I was recently infected with sars cov2 and tested positive for covid while I was visiting family & friends in NYC. I suspect it was at a bar or a restaurant, but I’ll never know for sure. 

By the way, I am fully vaccinated, having received my 2nd Pfizer jab back in mid-March. My symptoms were very mild, and I did lose my sense of smell for about 2 weeks. My sense did thankfully come back today. To me that means that the vaccine works wonderfully.  

What I’m curious about is the fact that no one who was around me got sick–my girlfriend, her brother & his roommate for whom we were staying with in their tiny & stuffy 2 bedroom Bed-Stuy apartment. None of the friends who we visited got sick either. All of them are vaccinated and all of them did get tested after hearing of my positive test. They all tested negative. FYI, I was likely infected on a Monday or Tuesday, but didn’t get symptoms until Thursday. I thought it was allergies for several days due to the fact that we were staying in a home with a cat. I do have mild cat allergies. I wasn’t able to get tested until the following Monday, after I arrived home a few days prior. Testing in SF Bay Area is lacking these days. 

I’d love to know how much virus a fully vaccinated person really does shed? Is there data yet on the delta variant and how it affects vaccinated persons–are they really that contagious? According to the CDC’s recent guidelines, it seems that vaccinated people are contagious and should not be in contact with anyone for 14 days. From my own personal experience, it seems as if I barely shed any virus, if at all. Could that be true? Also, is data available yet on how long a vaccinated person is contagious? The 10 day quarantine just seems too long. Although I did quarantine indoors once I realized I had covid, I never did self-isolate from my girlfriend and she NEVER got any symptoms or test positive. What’s the deal? 

Thank you so much! I hope you all have a great week or weekend depending when you read this. 


Lin writes:

Twiv Team

Here’s a reader pick. Article from The Atlantic that uses a clever and interesting metaphor (castle defense) to explain SarsCov2 infection and vaccine breakthrough. 

Whole family listens to Twiv every week. Amazing source of information on the pandemic and viruses (everyone chimes in together when Vincent intones “the kind that make you sick”) as well as entertainment. We were about to listen to the show after Alessandro Sette’s, and my 9 year old grandson asked “What epitope are we on?” 

So impressed and inspired by the hard work and effort that go into each show. 

Thanks so much for keeping me informed as well as sane since March 2020. I have not missed one twiv podcast in all that time and plan to keep listening for as long as Vincent keeps podcasting. 

Best wishes from western MA (way more west than Alan) 

Lin (just a retired molecular biologist)