Vaccination against Covid-19

CCBC promotes debate on strategies for fighting the new coronavirus in Brazil and Canada

By Sérgio Siscaro

The governments of the world’s countries have pursued a number of strategies to deal with the pandemic of the new coronavirus. Each country, with the availability of vaccines, has adopted different prioritization criteria and different methods of immunization, according to the needs and characteristics of its population.

For the purpose of comparing the responses to Covid-19 given by the Brazilian and Canadian governments, Chamber of Commerce Brazil-Canada (CCBC) promoted, on May 12, the Brazil-Canada Covid-19 webinar (in English): Strategies for Vaccination and Fighting New Variants. Conducted by Ricardo Meirelles, member of the CCBC Health Innovation Committee, the event contributed to demonstrate what both countries have done to face the common challenge.

Cutting-Edge Technology

In his opening presentation, key speaker Eric Marcusson, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Providence Therapeutics, shared information about the messenger RNA (mRNA), technology developed by his company. Headquartered in Calgary, in the Province of Alberta, Providence Therapeutics announced, in early May, that it had obtained positive test results for the PTX-COVID19-B vaccine, which uses the same technology as those produced by laboratories such as Pfizer-BionTech and Moderna.

The mRNA-based immunizers are characterized by creating antibodies against the coronavirus by teaching cells to synthesize a protein that stimulates the patient’s immune response. “These vaccines have an advantage in that they are easier to modify, for increasing their efficacy against the emerging variants of the new coronavirus”, he said, emphasizing the speed of the clinical testing process for the development of the immunizer and its ability to neutralize the variants type UK, Manaus, and South African, in addition to the original SARS-CoV-2 strain.

He also believes that, in the future, this technology should be widely used in the prevention of other infectious diseases, such as Zika, influenza, and malaria.

Attention to the variants

Both continental-sized countries, Brazil and Canada have marked differences when it comes to fighting Covid-19. “Due to the fact that Canada has not participated more prominently in immunizer research and development efforts, its strategy has been more focused on acquiring vaccines from abroad. Once purchased the vaccine, the vaccination process was organized by risk groups”, said lecturer Dale Kalina, PhD in infectious diseases at Joseph Brant Hospital, and associate professor at McMaster University. However, he added that the speed of the immunization process is still slower in Canada than in other countries. “About 40% of Canadians have been given at least one dose, a percentage that drops to 3% when we consider people who have taken two doses”.

He also stressed the need to maintain constant vigilance for new strains of the coronavirus. “We can expect the emergence of variants. Especially in areas where the virus is not well controlled. It is a global challenge, and until it is solved everywhere, it will not be over anywhere”.

A new mindset

In Brazil, the existence of a national immunization program, since the 1960s, was fundamental for the eradication of diseases such as smallpox and polio. The assessment was made by senior researcher Claude Pirmez, who held the vice-presidency of Research at Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz) (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) between 2009 and 2013. “Furthermore, the work of Fiocruz and Instituto Butantan (Butantan Institute) has made it possible to produce the vaccines against the new coronavirus in Brazil”, she said.

She recalled that, as in Canada, the pace of vaccination is also slow in Brazil: only 10% of the population would have received the first dose. “And that is not enough, especially when one considers the size of the population and the dimensions of the territory.”

According to the expert, the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to bring profound changes. “It changes the global mindset in a huge way and should bring changes not only in the operating way of the healthcare systems, but also in terms of social behavior. Nothing will ever be the same as before, especially because we are going to have new pandemics in the future”.