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Developing immunity to conquer COVID-19

Last Updated Apr 26, 2021 at 8:59 am PDT

CALGARY (CityNews) — Catching and suffering from COVID-19 is no easy ordeal, and those who test positive might hope to at least develop a natural immunity to the virus.

But one researcher says relying on protection after infection could serve to prolong the pandemic.

Dr. Gosia Gasperowicz, a developmental biologist and researcher at the University of Calgary, says that natural immunity wanes with time.

The period it takes to fade remains uncertain.

“Getting infected with COVID-19 might give you some immunity for some time against the same strain you get infected with, but once another strain comes, another variant, the previous immunity might not protect you,” she cautions.

Being back to normal means building immunity in the population.

Gasperowicz, who also co-founded Zero Covid Canada, points to vaccines as one of the most powerful tools to conquer the virus.

But she adds that even if 70 per cent of the population were vaccinated, allowing the virus to spread could extend our wait before a return to safer times.

“In the short term, we will protect a lot of people from dying and being seriously ill, but the spread will continue and this is culturing the virus,” warns Gasperowicz.

“This is training the virus to evade vaccination.”

Between April 12 to April 18, Alberta’s R value – the rate of virus transmission – was 1.09.

After doing the math, Gasperowicz says that with public health intervention and using vaccines that are 90 per cent effective, Alberta could decrease its R value by about two-thirds by immunizing at least 70 per cent of the province.

But she shares her concerns about being able to vaccinate such a vast portion of the population when there’s still a large group of people who the shots can’t yet help — children.

“We have this subpopulation that is totally not protected, not at all, not against death, not against serious illness – they are bare,” says Gasperowicz.

“They have no shield at all, and then we reopen, let the virus spread really fast, so basically it’s making sure that almost all kids will get infected sooner or later, which is just a horrible thought.”

Gasperowicz notes that public health measures, along with rolling out vaccines, will be the only way out of the pandemic and towards the elimination of the virus.