Inaugural lecture honors two west Alabama women who vaccinated their rural town against COVID-19

Nearly all of the 344 residents in Panola, Alabama, received vaccination shots.

Anna Blakney headshot Anna BlakneyA May 18 lecture will celebrate two west Alabama women — Dorothy Oliver and Drucilla Russ-Jackson — who worked tirelessly last year to get their neighbors in the rural town of Panola vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The two women are featured in a New Yorker documentary film that focuses on Oliver, a convenience store owner. They are also spotlighted in a People magazine story from December 2021, that says, “Dorothy Oliver persuaded all but five of the 344 residents in Panola, Alabama, to get vaccinated — and she’s working on the rest.”

To honor that work, the inaugural Dorothy Oliver and Drucilla Russ-Jackson Vaccine Lecture at UAB has been established jointly by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Microbiology, the Immunology Institute and UAB’s American Society of Microbiology Student Chapter.

Oliver and Russ-Jackson will be guests for the lecture, presented by Anna Blakney, Ph.D., a vaccine expert who regularly fields questions about vaccines from more than 250,000 followers on her social media. Blakney is an assistant professor in University of British Columbia’s School of Biomedical Engineering and Michael Smith Laboratories. Her talk is titled “Development of a self-amplifying RNA vaccine against COVID-19.”

The lecture will be Wednesday, May 18, at 12 p.m. in the Bevill Biomedical Research Building’s Room 170.