Marilynn Marchione, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, July 21, 2020 5:25PM EDT
New research suggests that antibodies the immune system makes to fight the new coronavirus may only last a few months in people with mild illness, but that doesn’t mean protection also is gone or that it won’t be possible to develop an effective vaccine.
“Infection with this coronavirus does not necessarily generate lifetime immunity,” but antibodies are only part of the story, said Dr. Buddy Creech, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University. He had no role in the work, published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The immune system remembers how to make fresh antibodies if needed and other parts of it also can mount an attack, he said.
Antibodies are proteins that white blood cells called B cells make to bind to the virus and help eliminate it. The earliest ones are fairly crude but as infection goes on, the immune system becomes trained to focus its attack and to make more precise antibodies.
Dr. Otto Yang and others at the University of California, Los Angeles, measured these more precise antibodies in 30 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and four housemates presumed to have the disease. Their average age was 43 and most had mild symptoms.
Researchers found that the antibodies had a half-life of 73 days, which means that half of them would be gone after that much time. It dovetails with a previous report from China also suggesting antibodies quickly fade.
The results “call for caution regarding antibody-based `immunity passports,’ herd immunity, and perhaps vaccine durability,” the California authors write.
That’s true, Creech said, but other parts of the immune system also help confer protection. Besides churning out antibodies, B cells develop a memory so they know how to do that again if needed.
“They would get called into action very quickly when there’s a new exposure to the virus. It’s as if they lie dormant, just waiting,” he said.
Other white blood cells called T cells also are better able to attack the virus the next time they see it, Creech said.
Although circulating antibodies may not last long, what we need to know is if and how people remake antibodies if exposed to the coronavirus again and if they protect against another infection, Alison Criss, an immunologist at the University of Virginia, wrote in an email. “We also need to know if there is a protective T cell response” that reappears.
Vaccines, which provoke the immune system to make antibodies, might give longer-lasting protection than natural infection because they use purified versions of what stimulates that response, she noted.
“This shouldn’t dissuade us from pursuing a vaccine,” he said. “Antibodies are only a part of the story.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
What it's like getting an asymptomatic COVID test at an Alberta pharmacy | News – Daily Hive
Well, that was a lot easier than I expected.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still presenting a very real threat to public health, the Province of Alberta announced at the end of July that it would be expanding its asymptomatic testing at pharmacies.
Originally, the pilot program administered 10,000 tests throughout June, contributing to the nearly 677,000 tests that have been run in Alberta since the pandemic began, and has since been expanded to allow any pharmacy that wants to participate to offer the tests.
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Seeing as the Mission pharmacy just down the street from where I live was running tests, I decided to take them up on the offer.
Scheduling was as simple as calling the specific Shoppers location. A prerecorded message prompted me to leave a message with my name and phone number, and I was contacted by a Shoppers worker within the hour.
They explained that the next available time slots were in two days’ time, and I had a selection from a range of hours at which I could arrive.
With that all settled, I arrived at the pharmacy at the decided upon date and time, stood in line at the pharmacy counter, told them I had a test scheduled, showed them my Alberta Health Card, and then waited about two minutes while they got the test set up.
I walked into the little office, sat down, the pharmacist swabbed the back of my throat (asymptomatic tests at pharmacies are always going to be throat swabs, never the terrifying nasal version, I was glad to learn), and then confirmed my information before it was stuck onto the test vial.
I asked the pharmacist if they were seeing a lot of asymptomatic tests at this location — apparently they administer one every 15 minutes.
After that, I was free to go. The whole thing took a grand total of 10 minutes, and I was told that I’d get a phone call with the results in two to four days.
It was both faster and more accessible than the symptomatic, drive-through coronavirus tests that are being administered throughout the province, though even those are a relatively straightforward experience.
According to Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, asymptomatic tests can help Alberta Health Services get an understanding of how the virus is spreading in the province.
“With cases on the rise in Alberta, we must all do our part in the fight against COVID-19,” said Hinshaw in the July release announcing the expansion of asymptomatic testing.
“The actions we each take today will help protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities tomorrow. Testing helps us understand more about the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta.”
The Province of Alberta encourages the public to get an asymptomatic test, especially under the following scenarios:
- Before or after spending time with individuals who have a higher risk of serious health outcomes (e.g., anyone over 65 or with underlying medical conditions).
- Before or after travelling internationally, attending an event with recent travellers, or hosting them.
- Before or after participating in activities or events that may have put you at a higher risk of exposure (e.g., a large gathering where physical distancing was not followed).
- For frontline workers who have regular interactions with Albertans, particularly those at higher risk of serious outcomes.
Because getting the test done really is a lot easier than you’d expect.
B.C. to hire 500 more health-care workers to increase COVID-19 contact tracing – CBC.ca
B.C. will temporarily hire 500 more health-care professionals to work as contact tracers for COVID-19, government officials announced Wednesday.
Premier John Horgan made the announcement alongside Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, explaining that public health teams usually follow up on the close connections of people who’ve tested positive for the virus, but more resources are needed during this pandemic.
Henry said the new positions are an important part of preventing disease transmission. They allow health officials to make sure that everyone who has been exposed to the virus is in isolation and monitoring themselves for symptoms.
“This is bread and butter work for public health,” she said.
Recruiting for the 500 positions will be done by public health authorities, and teams will be ready to deploy across the province if needed.
“This allows us now to get more people trained up to do this really important work, as we continue through the progression of our pandemic,” Henry said.
The new contact tracers are expected to begin work in September and will be employed until at least the end of March 2021.
The news comes as new COVID-19 infections continue to surge. On Tuesday, health officials announced that another 46 cases had been confirmed, bringing the total number of cases to date to 4,111, including 472 that are still active.
A total of 195 people have died of the disease in B.C.
Good behaviour ‘not consistent’
Henry said Wednesday that despite the increasing number of cases, B.C. is still “holding our own” on contact tracing, managing to reach 98 per cent of the contacts of each new positive case.
Nonetheless, Horgan said he’s concerned about the rising number of cases among young people, particularly those connected to large parties.
“As we’ve seen over the past number of weeks, the good behaviour, the common sense of British Columbians is not consistent across the board,” he said.
Horgan said he hopes B.C. can continue to enforce public health orders mainly through warnings but will escalate penalties with those who continue to flaunt the rules.
He also joked that it might be time to “call in Deadpool,” making a plea for Vancouver-raised movie star Ryan Reynolds — along with comedian Seth Rogen — to publicly encourage young people to avoid large gatherings.
Watch | B.C.’s premier asks for superhero help in the fight against COVID-19: “This is a call out to Deadpool right now. Ryan we need your help up here.”
Meanwhile, Horgan and Henry both addressed calls from some corners for a mask mandate in public spaces, saying they have no plans to make face coverings compulsory.
“We don’t want people to believe that masks will be an invincibility shield for them,” Horgan said.
Henry stressed again that masks are not something that can prevent transmission on their own, but she’s encouraged to see them become increasingly “normalized” in communities.
Earlier Wednesday, Education Minister Rob Fleming released details of a phased plan for the return to school in September.
School staff will arrive on Sept. 8 to receive instructions on plans to prevent transmission of COVID-19 and begin adjusting to the new reality. Students are expected to return for orientation by Sept. 10.
COVID-19 updates in Calgary for Aug. 13
Across Canada, the numbers are slightly more conservative, with 52 per cent saying the restrictions are just right, 20 per cent saying they go too far, and 28 per cent wanting to see tighter rules.
People in B.C, Manitoba and Saskatchewan were more open to tighter restrictions to prevent the spread. Alberta and Quebec showed the least openness to that idea.
The poll also asked respondents how they felt about their premier’s handling of the pandemic. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney received the lowest approval rating east of the Atlantic provinces, with 51 per cent saying he was doing a good job, and 47 per cent saying he was doing a bad job.
The results come from an online survey of 1,511 Canadian adults registered on the Angus Reid Forum. A probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Canada’s airports likely to hike passenger fees as need for upgrades rise in the wake of pandemic
Canada’s airports are facing the bill for long-recommended upgrades just as COVID-19 has decimated their revenues and passengers could end up covering the costs when planes take off again.
In early March, before the pandemic was front and centre, the government published new regulations calling for the extension of emergency overshoot areas at major airport runways. The overshoots, called runway end safety areas (RESA), exist at airports around the world and are designed for emergencies when planes run out of room while landing.
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