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I recently spoke to Jose Ramirez-GarciaLuna, a Mitacs Elevate Postdoctoral Fellow affiliated to McGill University and Swift Medical Inc.
Jose is a clinician scientist with over 5 years of clinical experience as an emergency doctor. He has a strong research experience in wound healing, tissue engineering, biomaterial immunology, epidemiology, and artificial intelligence. I wanted to get his point of view from a science perspective regarding the current vaccination operation. I asked him the five following questions:
As a scientist, what were some of the good things and some of the bad things you saw emerge this past year regarding the pandemic?
This pandemic has been characterized by an overwhelming amount of information. It seemed like there was information available everywhere. And this ended up being a challenge in some aspects as it is hard to differentiate the “good science” from the bad. The last pandemic – the Spanish flu –in 1918 occurred during different times when there was no access to information. But this time, in addition to a pandemic, there was an “infodemic” which may help explain why people were slow to react in early 2020.
What is your reaction to how the vaccination campaign is going in the city?
It is amazing to see people doing their part. There’s been line ups at the Montreal General Hospital’s vaccination site, which shows people are willing to wait to get their doses. I am really happy to see that some of the most engaged vaccine recipients is Montreal’s young population.
As more people will slowly start going back to offices, what is the best way for employers to handle the vaccinated vs non-vaccinated in the same work location?
The best solution is to reach herd immunity and that magic number of 70%-80%vaccinated so we can go back and have a sense of security.
As a scientist, what is your reaction on how quickly vaccines were developed?
This is an amazing accomplishment! Normally it takes 5 to 10 years to develop a vaccine.
And we also saw Pfizer and Moderna use a new technology to create their vaccines. Messenger RNA vaccines—also called mRNA vaccines—are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a foreign protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies without having to introduce a full virus.
On the other hand, AstraZeneca and Johnson’s versions are viral vector-based vaccines, using the traditional regular recipes for creating vaccines by using a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to deliver important instructions to our cells. This probably explains the differences seen in their profiles.
Given the success of Pfizer and Moderna, this new Messenger RNA technology is a game changer, and very promising for diseases like HIV.
What other positives will be coming out of what was accomplished during this pandemic?
The pandemic was a busy time for companies working in new medical technologies. For example where I work, Swift Medical received a grant from the government for developing and launching technologies created during the pandemic. A consortium of leading Canadian organizations has come together to launch Telewound Care Canada, a virtual care initiative designed to help patients connect with their care teams while reducing unnecessary travel and in-person care. Telewound Care Canada aims to implement, evaluate and scale integrated, virtually-enabled models of wound care that will impact over one thousand wound patients in Ontario and Quebec by Summer 2021. The goal is to use AI to deliver remote wound care to the most vulnerable patients.