Brock Experts Encourage Greater Uptake of Flu and COVID Vaccines This Fall

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With the flu season underway and COVID-19 continuing to evolve, action is needed, by individuals and governments alike, to keep communities safe this fall, say experts at Brock University.

Brock’s immunologist Adam MacNeil and political theorist and legal scholar Alison Braley-Rattai are weighing ways to increase protection for Canadians during the season when the disease often rears its head.

To clarify whether people vaccinated against COVID should also be vaccinated against the flu, MacNeil explains that the immune system recognizes influenza viruses and SARS-CoV-2 as two distinct entities based on the three-dimensional structure of each. So flu and COVID vaccines don’t overlap, she says.

Adam MacNeil, an immunologist at Brock University.

The latest COVID vaccine is ‘bivalent’, meaning the booster targets the parent strain plus sub-variants arising from the Omicron strain, giving the immune system what MacNeil calls a “competitive advantage”.

Associate Professor of Health Sciences says people often think of COVID-19 as a “bad flu” as the symptoms of COVID and the flu can look similar, and both are spread through aerosols and droplets.

But COVID has a more invisible side that can cause problems in other tissues and organs that can persist after infection, he says. This is thought to happen in part because it causes inflammation of the blood vessels, or vasculitis, and because it often goes to more places, including the brain and heart.

“To give yourself the best possible protection against the expected increase in influenza and SARS-CoV-2 this fall, do yourself and your community a favor and get both vaccines as soon as you are eligible, wear a well-fitting N95 respirator when you are in places crowded interiors or where ventilation and air filtration are poor, and practice distancing,” says MacNeil.

Public health officials, he says, predict that the coming fall and winter will be “very challenging,” given Omicron’s infectiousness and ability to evade protection from the vaccine that worked well against the Delta variant last fall, in addition to the return to behaviors prior to the pandemic. .

“Put your protection on by wearing a mask,” he says. “Layers are the hottest trend for a healthy fall and winter in 2022 and 2023.”

MacNeil offers more information in an article he wrote earlier this year for The Conversation.

Associate Professor of Labor Studies Alison Braley-Rattai researches the moral and legal aspects and political implications of childhood vaccination.

Alison Braley-Rattai, Associate Professor of Labor Studies.

Despite constitutional guarantees, Alison Braley-Rattai, an assistant professor in the Department of Labor Studies at Brock University, says protecting workers’ rights remains a struggle.

She says that several recent studies show that due to increased transmission, children’s susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 has increased during the pandemic, raising the possibility of serious outcomes.”

Braley-Rattai says uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine among Ontario children is relatively low compared to adults. She explored the issue in an article on The Conversation earlier this month, where she argued that, to increase vaccine uptake, the provincial government should add COVID-19 to the list of “designated diseases” in its Immunization Law. School Students.

There has also been recent research in the ‘nudge literature’ on how to encourage people towards a particular end, particularly in the areas of childhood vaccination and, more recently, regarding COVID-19 vaccines, he says.

Braley-Rattai says the ‘boost literature’ outlines ways to increase uptake of routine vaccines in general, including early intervention, targeted information campaigns, automated reminders, individualized follow-ups and easier access.

But vaccination alone is not enough, he says, adding that COVID-19’s ability to mutate may make vaccination “increasingly less important than controlling the infection itself.”

“Here’s the rub: It doesn’t make much sense to include COVID vaccines in designated diseases without other measures to reduce infections, like air quality standards, masking, and better testing and tracing,” says Braley-Rattai.

“Governments have abandoned the notion of public health for a ‘you do you’ approach that is, frankly, unconscionable given the long-term implications of infections for both individuals and society,” he says.

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