Transcript: In Search of COVID-19 Immunity | Apr 16, 2020

Steve sits in a room with white walls, a low slanted ceiling and several framed pictures on the walls including one of George Drew and one of Walter Kronkite. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a checkered shirt and a spotted black tie.

A caption on screen reads "In search of COVID-19 immunity. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says RETURNING TO NORMAL WILL REQUIRE MANY THINGS TO HAPPEN. KEY AMONG THEM: FINDING TREATMENTS FOR COVID-19 SUFFERERS. AND, IT TURNS OUT, THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY HAD THE DISEASE MAY BE CRITICALLY IMPORTANT TO THE SEARCH. WITH US NOW FOR MORE: IN VANCOUVER, BC: DANA DEVINE, CHIEF SCIENTIST AT CANADIAN BLOOD SERVICES...

Dana is in her fifties, with shoulder-length straight brown hair and bangs. She's wearing glasses and a blue blouse.

Steve continues IN HAMILTON, ONTARIO: DAWN BOWDISH, CANADA RESEARCH CHAIR IN AGING AND IMMUNITY AND A PROFESSOR AT McMASTER UNIVERSITY...

Dawn is in her thirties, with long curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses, a black blazer and a blue blouse.

Steve continues AND HERE IN THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL: DR. JEANNIE CALLUM, TRANSFUSION MEDICINE PHYSICIAN AT SUNNYBROOK HEALTH SCIENCE CENTRE AND A PROFESSOR OF LABORATORY MEDICINE AND PATHOBIOLOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO.

Jeannie is in her forties, with shoulder-length straight auburn hair. She's wearing glasses, a gray blazer and a matching shirt.

Steve continues WE'RE DELIGHTED TO HAVE THE THREE OF YOU ON OUR PROGRAM TONIGHT FOR AN IMPORTANT CONVERSATION THAT FOCUSES LESS ON HOW WE GOT HERE AND MORE ON HOW WE'RE GOING TO GET OUT OF HERE. DAWN, I WANT TO START WITH YOU. YOU'RE AN IMMUNOLOGIST. I WANT YOU TO START BY EXPLAINING WHAT SCIENTISTS KNOW SO FAR ABOUT THE IMMUNOLOGY OF A VIRUS SUCH AS COVID-19.

The caption changes to "Dawn Bowdish. McMaster University."

Dawn says YES, ABSOLUTELY. THIS IS A NEW VIRUS. IF WE THINK OF IMMUNE RESPONSES COMING IN THREE FLAVOURS. THE FIRST IS CHICKEN POX. YOU WOULD HAVE HAD CHICKEN POX AS A KID AND MOST OF THE TIME YOU'RE PROTECTED FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. THE SECOND FLAVOUR IS SOMETHING LIKE TETANUS SHOTS, AS AN EXAMPLE. WE GENERATE STRONG, ROBUST IMMUNE RESPONSES BUT THEY DON'T LAST VERY LONG. THAT'S WHY WE HAVE TO GO BACK FOR BOOSTERS EVERY 10 YEARS. THE THIRD IS THE IMMUNE RESPONSE TO VIRUSES SUCH AS H.I.V. AS IT TURNS OUT PEOPLE LIVING WITH H.I.V. HAVE ROBUST IMMUNE RESPONSES. THEY HAVE A LOT OF PROTECTIVE ANTIBODIES. BUT THEY DON'T STOP THE INFECTION. WHEN WE MIMIC THOSE ANTIBODIES BY CREATING VACCINES, THEY HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO... INFECTION. WE WANT TO KNOW WHICH OF THOSE THREE FLAVOURS OF IMMUNE RESPONSE ARE WE GOING TO GET. WE HOPE AND PRAY FOR THE CHICKEN POX ANSWER, THAT PEOPLE WHO ARE SICK TODAY WILL BE PROTECTED FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE. WE FEAR THE ANSWER MAY BE MORE LIKE THE H.I.V. STORY WHERE YOU MAY NOT NECESSARILY GENERATE PROTECTIVE IMMUNITY. BUT BASED ON STUDIES OF RELATED VIRUSES, WE EXPECT IT TO BE LIKE TETANUS. WE EXPECT THERE WILL BE SOME PERIOD OF IMMUNITY WHERE PEOPLE ARE PROTECTED BUT THAT MAY WANE WITH TIME. AND THAT, UNFORTUNATELY, WE ONLY CAN LEARN WITH TIME AS WE FOLLOW PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN INFECTED OVER THE COURSE OF MONTHS TO YEARS.

Steve says DAWN, LET ME DO A QUICK FOLLOW-UP WITH YOU. THIS VIRUS SEEMS TO BE OBVIOUSLY MUCH MORE PROBLEMATIC FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE OLDER. IS THERE SOME REASON WHY THEIR IMMUNE SYSTEMS SEEM TO BE RESPONDING SO MUCH DIFFERENTLY THAN THOSE WHO ARE, SAY, UNDER THE AGE OF 80 OR 70?

Dawn says ABSOLUTELY. SO THE AGING IMMUNE RESPONSE HAS A FEW DEFICIENCIES. WE TEND NOT TO BE SO GOOD AT GENERATING BRAND NEW IMMUNE RESPONSES AS WE GET OLDER. WE DO THINK THAT A LOT OF THE AGE-RELATED SUSCEPTIBILITY IS NOT SO MUCH DUE TO CHRONOLOGICAL WAYS BUT JUST THE FREQUENCY IN WHICH PEOPLE WOULD HAVE THOSE PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS WE'VE HEARD SO MUCH ABOUT, THE HYPERTENSION, THE CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE. BUT WE'VE ALSO FOUND SOME VERY ODD AND DISTURBING FINDINGS IN SOME OF THE EARLY STUDIES THAT HAVE COME OUT OF CHINA. WE KNOW THAT PEOPLE WHO BECOME VERY, VERY ILL, SO ILL THAT THEY'RE HOSPITALIZED AND THEN DIE, TEND TO HAVE SOME STRANGE CHANGES IN THEIR CIRCULATING IMMUNE CELLS. SOME OF THE IMMUNE CELLS CALLED T-CELLS THAT WE WOULD EXPECT TO BE IN THE BLOOD AREN'T THERE ANYMORE. AND IT LOOKS LIKE IN SOME PEOPLE THEY MIGHT BE GOING TO THE WRONG PLACES. THEY MIGHT ACTUALLY END UP IN THE LUNGS. AND IF THIS IS THE CASE, THEN WE WOULD PREDICT THAT THEY'RE ADDING TO THE DAMAGE THAT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM IS CAUSING INSTEAD OF BEING PROTECTIVE. WE SUSPECT THAT AS WE LEARN MORE ABOUT THE AGING IMMUNE RESPONSE TO THE VIRUS, WE'LL ALSO LEARN A LOT ABOUT HOW IT'S CAUSING THE PATHOLOGY OR THE HARM THAT HAPPENS AS PART OF THE IMMUNE RESPONSE TO THE VIRUS.

Steve says JEANNIE, TAKE US THROUGH THE NEXT PART OF THE STORY, WHICH IS THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE CONTRACTED COVID-19 AND COME THROUGH IT, THEY ARE BELIEVED, I GATHER, TO HAVE SOME KIND OF... WELL, LET ME JUST SAY IT FACETIOUSLY, SOME KIND OF SUPERPOWER RIGHT NOW, RIGHT? THEY HAVE DEVELOPED ANTIBODIES. HOW ARE YOU HOPING TO CHANNEL THOSE ANTIBODIES TO OTHERS WHO ARE FACING THE COVID CRISIS?

The caption changes to "Jeannie Callum. Sunnybrook Hospital."

Pictures flash by of medical staff handling bags of blood and plasma.

Jeannie says WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO DO IS BRIDGE UNTIL WE HAVE A VACCINE. SO TRYING TO TAKE PATIENTS WHO HAVE RECOVERED, THEY'RE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 28 DAYS FROM RECOVERY OUT TO 12 WEEKS AFTER THEIR RECOVERY IN THAT PEAK WHERE THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE STRONG IMMUNITY, STRONG ANTIBODIES. WE'RE GOING TO COLLECT THEIR PLASMA, WHICH IS THE LIQUID PART OF THE BLOOD. WE'RE GOING TO COLLECT IT WITH A SPECIAL MACHINE THAT REALLY ONLY TAKES ABOUT AN HOUR TO COLLECT IT. IT'S QUITE EASY, PAINLESS. YOU CAN READ A BOOK WHILE YOU'RE ON THE MACHINE, OR WATCH A MOVIE. AND DONORS CAN DONATE UP TO ONCE A WEEK. WE FREEZE IT AWAY. WE TEST IT, MAKE SURE IT'S GOT NICE, STRONG ANTIBODIES. AND THEN WE TAKE IT TO THE HOSPITALS THAT ARE PARTICIPATING IN THE TRIAL, AND WE'VE SELECTED TO TRY AND TAKE PATIENTS WHO ARE SICK ENOUGH TO BE HOSPITALIZED, PATIENTS THAT JUST CAN'T SEEM TO GET THEIR IMMUNE SYSTEM TO RESPOND FAST ENOUGH SO THAT THEY CAN WEATHER THE STORM AT HOME, BUT THEY'RE NOT SICK ENOUGH THAT THEY'RE IN THE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT AND WE'RE GOING TO COMPARE IN A CLINICAL TRIAL WHERE WE RANDOMIZE PATIENTS, WHERE SOME PATIENTS THE COMPUTER DECIDES THAT THEY'RE GOING TO GET THIS SPECIAL SUPER PLASMA... BECAUSE THE QUALITY OF THE ANTIBODIES THAT THEY HAVE IN THEIR PLASMA IS BETTER AT FIGHTING THE VIRUS.

Steve says WE'VE GOT A CLIP HERE THAT ACTUALLY SHOWS HOW THAT COLLECTION TAKES PLACE. LET'S RUN THAT CLIP AND THEN WE'LL COME BACK AND CHAT.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "August 7, 2019."
In the clip, a male arm has an IV line connected extracting blood that then passes through a machine.

A female voice says THIS IS JUST A ONE-NEEDLE PROCESS.

A male voice says WHAT IS THE MACHINE DOING?

The woman says SO RIGHT NOW THE CENTRIFUGE IS SPINNING AT 700 RPMs. WE'RE SEPARATING YOUR RED CELLS. THIS IS A RETURN SO YOU'LL GET YOUR RED CELLS BACK THROUGH THE SAME NEEDLE.

Steve says DANA, MAYBE YOU COULD PICK UP THE STORY FROM THIS ANGLE. THE FACT THAT WE'RE IN THE MIDST OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC RIGHT NOW, DOES THAT CHANGE THE WAY IN WHICH PLASMA IS EITHER COLLECTED AND-OR DONATED FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS TRIAL?

The caption changes to "Dana Devine. Canadian Blood Services."

Dana says NOT AT ALL. SO WE'RE GOING TO BE DOING OUR PLASMA COLLECTIONS AT CANADIAN BLOOD SERVICES AND OUR SISTER BLOOD OPERATOR IN QUEBEC WILL BE DOING EXACTLY THE SAME THING WE DO WHEN THERE'S NOT A PANDEMIC. SO THE PLASMA DONORS COME IN [indiscernible] IT TAKES ABOUT 45 MINUTES FOR US TO COLLECT THE PLASMA DONATIONS USING THAT MACHINE. BUT WE GIVE YOU ALL OF YOUR BLOOD CELLS BACK, YOUR WHITE CELLS AND YOUR RED CELLS AND PLATELETS GO BACK AND WE'RE COLLECTING THAT LIQUID.

Steve says DO YOU HAVE A PREFERENCE WHETHER IT'S MEN OR WOMEN THAT DONATE?

Dana says FOR THIS CLINICAL TRIAL, WE'RE COLLECTING FROM MEN WHO HAVE RECOVERED FROM COVID-19, AND THE REASON THAT WE'RE DOING THAT IS BECAUSE WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT WE DON'T PUT INTO THE HOSPITAL TRIAL PLASMA FROM ANY WOMEN WHO MAY HAVE ANTIBODIES THAT WOULD ACTUALLY CAUSE MORE LUNG DAMAGE. THAT OCCURS IN WOMEN WHO HAVE HAD A HISTORY OF PREGNANCY. JUST TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE NOT GOING TO MAKE THE SITUATION ANY WORSE, WE INITIALLY ARE COLLECTING PLASMA ONLY FROM MALE DONORS. IF THE CLINICAL TRIALS PROVE TO BE SUCCESSFUL, THEN WE WILL BE LOOKING AT COLLECTING PLASMA FROM ANYONE WHO HAS RECOVERED FROM COVID-19 WHO IS WILLING TO OFFER PLASMA FOR THESE PROCEDURES AND FOR WHOM UNDERGOING THE PROCEDURE WOULD [indiscernible].

Steve says AND ONE MORE QUICK FOLLOW-UP. IF YOU'RE A CANADIAN WHO HAS HAD COVID-19 AND YOU'VE COME THROUGH IT, COULD YOU DONATE YOUR OWN PLASMA DIRECTLY TO SOMEBODY OF YOUR CHOICE, A SIBLING, A SPOUSE, A RELATIVE, SOMETHING LIKE THAT?

Dana says YEAH, WE'RE NOT DOING THAT, AND THE REASON IS, BECAUSE VERY OFTEN PLASMA WILL CONTAIN ANTIBODIES AGAINST RED BLOOD CELLS AND WE DON'T WANT TO GIVE YOU AN INCOMPATIBLE TRANSFUSION JUST BECAUSE THE PLASMA CAME FROM YOUR HUSBAND. SO WE'RE CONCERNED ABOUT COMPATIBILITY, AND SO WE'RE NOT DOING WHAT YOU WOULD CALL A DIRECT [indiscernible], WE'RE PUTTING EVERYONE'S PLASMA IN A POOL AND YOU GET THE COMPATIBLE PLASMA THAT'S NEEDED FOR THAT [indiscernible].

Steve says GOTCHA. JEANNIE, WHEN ELSE HAS THIS TREATMENT BEEN USED OVER THE PAST CENTURY IN THIS WAY?

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Jeannie says YES, SO IT'S BEEN TRIED FOR INFLUENZA, BACK TO 1918, IN WHAT WE CALL UNCONTROLLED STUDIES WHERE YOU TAKE A GROUP OF PATIENTS, YOU TREAT THEM AND YOU COMPARE THEM TO PEOPLE THAT DIDN'T RECEIVE THE TREATMENT BUT IT WASN'T A CLINICAL TRIAL WHERE PATIENTS ARE RANDOMIZED. BUT IT WAS ALSO TRIED IN SARS IN A SMALL NUMBER OF SHALL PATIENTS, IN MERS, A SIMILAR CORONAVIRUS, AND EVEN IN THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC THERE HAVE BEEN SMALL CASES OF TREATING FIVE, TEN, TWENTY PATIENTS, AND IT LOOKS PROMISING BUT WE DON'T REALLY KNOW. THEY WEREN'T TESTED IN A PROPERLY DESIGNED CLINICAL TRIAL WHERE WE'RE ACTUALLY MEASURING AND WE KNOW WE'RE NOT DOING MORE HARM THAN GOOD.

Steve says IT'S INTERESTING, THOUGH, THAT THIS ACTUALLY DATES BACK TO THE SPANISH FLU. BASICALLY WHAT YOU'RE TRYING RIGHT NOW WAS TRIED 100 YEARS AGO?

Jeannie says THAT'S RIGHT. REALLY, WE USE CONCENTRATES OF ANTIBODIES FOR OTHER INFECTIONS WHERE YOU GET EXPOSED. SO IF YOU GET EXPOSED TO MEASLES AND FOR WHATEVER REASON WE CAN'T VACCINATE YOU BECAUSE YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM IS COMPROMISED, WE DO GIVE YOU ANTIBODIES FROM OTHER PEOPLE FROM THEIR VACCINES AND IT WORKS TO PREVENT THE INFECTION, MAKE THE INFECTION LESS SEVERE. SO THERE'S A LOT OF HISTORICAL EVIDENCE TO SUGGEST THAT THIS SHOULD BE AN EFFECTIVE THERAPY.

Steve says WHAT IS THE SWEET SPOT IN TERMS OF TIME? ONCE YOU'VE HAD COVID, ONCE YOU'VE PASSED THROUGH IT, WHAT'S THE BEST AMOUNT OF TIME TO WAIT FOR WHEN YOUR ANTIBODIES ARE THE STRONGEST AND ABLE TO DO THE MOST?

Jeannie says YES, SO WE THINK IT'S GOING TO BE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN FOUR WEEKS TO 12 WEEKS AFTER YOUR INFECTION, BUT WE'RE GOING TO BE MEASURING THE ANTIBODY LEVELS IN THE DONORS. HOPEFULLY THEY'RE GOING TO DONATE EVERY WEEK, AS LONG AS THEY'RE HEALTHY, AND THAT WILL ALLOW YOU US TO MEASURE HOW STRONG THE ANTIBODIES ARE OVER TIME, HOW FAST DO THEY DROP, WHY DO SOME DONORS HAVE HIGHER ANTIBODY LEVELS THAN OTHER PEOPLE? IS IT RELATED TO HOW STRONG THEIR INFECTION WAS, WHETHER THEY WERE HOSPITALIZED? I THINK WE'RE GOING TO LEARN A LOT, NOT JUST ON THE PATIENT SIDE BUT ALSO ON THE DONOR SIDE ABOUT THESE ANTIBODIES.

Steve says GOTCHA. DAWN, I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT ANOTHER RAPID RESPONSE ANTIBODIES TEST THAT WAS APPARENTLY MADE IN ONTARIO BUT THEN SHIPPED OUT INTERNATIONALLY, THE U.S., THE U.K., AND I THINK SOME EUROPEAN COUNTRIES ARE ALLOWING IT TO BE SOLD. BUT APPARENTLY WE ARE NOT THERE YET. WHAT'S THE TEST AND WHY NOT?

A picture shows a small cardboard package in hues of green with the name "Rapid Response."

Dawn says YES. SO SOME OF THESE COMMERCIAL ASSAYS ARE USEFUL BUT YOU HAVE TO BE SPECIFIC ABOUT THE QUESTION. MANY OF US IN THE IMMUNOLOGY FIELD, CERTAINLY PUBLIC HEALTH, THE GOVERNMENT, ARE REALLY INTERESTED IN KNOWING TWO THINGS: IF YOU HAVE ANTIBODIES IN YOUR BLOOD, YOU HAVE HAD AN INFECTION. MAYBE YOU WERE SYMPTOMATIC, MAYBE YOU ARE ASYMPTOMATIC, BUT YOU'VE HAD AN INFECTION. SO WE CAN USE THESE TESTS TO UNDERSTAND HOW MANY CANADIANS GOT INFECTED OR HOW MANY PEOPLE LIVING IN HAMILTON GOT INFECTED. THAT SORT OF QUESTION. THE SECOND USE FOR THESE SORT OF TESTS IS TO DETERMINE WHAT WE CALL BACK-TO-WORK READINESS OR YOU MAY HAVE HEARD ABOUT AN IMMUNITY PASSPORT. AND THAT'S USED FOR VERY DIFFERENT REASONS. SO THE IDEA IS WE WILL BE ABLE TO LOOK AT, ESPECIALLY HIGH-RISK PEOPLE, THINK OF EMERGENCY ROOM NURSES, THAT SORT OF THING, DETERMINE IF THEY HAVE SOME OF THIS PROTECTIVE IMMUNITY AND THEN MAYBE SHIFT JOB RESPONSIBILITIES AROUND SO THAT PEOPLE WHO HAVE PROTECTIVE IMMUNITY ARE DOING THE MORE DANGEROUS OR RISKY PROCEDURES, WHEREAS PEOPLE WHO HAVEN'T BEEN INFECTED ARE NOT. THESE TWO DIFFERENT APPLICATIONS REQUIRE TWO DIFFERENT SPECIFICITIES AND SENSITIVITIES. IMAGINE IF YOU WERE THAT I WANTED TO KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE IN HAMILTON HAD BEEN INFECTED. IF WE TESTED 50,000 PEOPLE IN HAMILTON AND FOUND THAT A THOUSAND HAD BEEN TOLD THAT THEY WERE... THEY DID NOT HAVE THE INFECTION BUT THEY ACTUALLY DID, AND A THOUSAND HAD BEEN TOLD THAT THEY HAD HAD THE INFECTION, ALTHOUGH THEY HADN'T. THAT WOULDN'T CHANGE TOO MUCH. YOU KNOW, ACCURACY IS OBVIOUSLY PREFERABLE, BUT I WOULD STILL COME TO THE SAME CONCLUSION ABOUT HOW MANY PEOPLE IN THE AREA HAD BEEN INFECTED. BUT NOW IMAGINE I'M TELLING THAT HEALTH CARE WORKER WHO AT EXTREMELY HIGH RISK OF GETTING SICK THAT SHE HAS PROTECTION WHEN SHE DOESN'T, OR SHE DOESN'T HAVE PROTECTION WHEN SHE DOES? THAT COULD HAVE REALLY NEGATIVE OUTCOMES. WE COULD BE PUTTING HER AT RISK BY REDEPLOYING HER TO A RISKIER SITUATION OR, IF PEOPLE CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOUR BECAUSE THEY FELT THEY WERE IMMUNE, THEY FELT THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO DO SOCIAL DISTANCING, WEAR MASKS, OR DECIDED TO GO BACK TO WORK EARLY, THAT COULD HELP WITH THE SPREAD OF INFECTION. SO THE TESTS THAT HAVE CURRENTLY BEEN APPROVED BY THE FDA AND ELSEWHERE HAVE VERY HIGH FALSE POSITIVE AND FALSE NEGATIVE RATES. AND FOR THE KIND OF TESTING WE WANT TO DO RIGHT NOW, ABOUT MAKING PERSONAL CHOICES THAT MIGHT AFFECT THE HEALTH OF INDIVIDUALS, I PERSONALLY WOULDN'T WANT ANYONE I CARED FOR TO MAKE A DECISION BASED ON THOSE TESTS. THEY MIGHT BE OKAY FOR LARGER POPULATION STUDIES, LIKE I SAID, WHERE NO INDIVIDUAL IS GOING TO CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOUR OR THEIR RISK ISN'T GOING TO INCREASE, BUT I CERTAINLY AM VERY WARY OF THAT. UNFORTUNATELY WE DO HAVE BETTER TESTS THAT ARE MORE SPECIFIC AND MORE SENSITIVE, BUT THEY'RE SLOWER. SO THIS THESE SORTS OF COMPROMISES THAT GOVERNMENTS HAVE TO MAKE, YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN CHEAP, FAST, AND WELL DONE. AND UNFORTUNATELY SOME OF THESE RAPID RESPONSE TESTS HAVE SACRIFICED THE WELL-DONE ANGLE TO IT, AND I THINK THE CANADIAN ATTITUDE OF REQUIRING A BIT MORE SENSITIVITY AND SPECIFICITY IS PROBABLY VERY WISE FOR MAKING PERSONAL DECISIONS AND WE CAN THEN MAKE BETTER DECISIONS ABOUT POPULATION-BASED STUDIES BY GENERATING ACCURATE BUT CHEAPER ASSAYS TO LOOK AT ANTIBODY LEVELS.

Steve says DANA, BEYOND THE RAPID BLOOD TESTS THAT WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT, ARE THERE ANY OTHER EFFECTIVE TESTS THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO THE CANADIANS NOW WHO WANT TO KNOW WHETHER THEY HAVE BUILT UP SOME KIND OF IMMUNITY TO COVID-19?

Dana says WELL, I THINK AS DONNA WAS JUST EXPLAINING, THERE ARE A LOT OF COMPANIES OUT THERE NOW THAT ARE WORKING TO DEVELOP TESTS THAT CAN BE USED EITHER IN A RAPID TEST FORMAT, AS WE WERE TALKING ABOUT, OR TESTS THAT CAN BE USED ON [indiscernible] MACHINES, AND THE COMPANIES THAT ARE DEVELOPING THOSE TESTS ARE WORKING HARD TO INCREASE THE SPECIFICITY ISSUES SO THAT IF YOU GET A POSITIVE TEST RESULT, YOU'LL ACTUALLY KNOW THAT IT RELATES TO THIS ANTIBODY AND NOT TO SOME [indiscernible] CORONAVIRUS. SO WE'RE NOT QUITE THERE YET, BUT THERE'S REALLY A LOT OF ACTIVITY GOING ON DEVELOPING THESE TESTS AND WE WILL BE [indiscernible].

Steve says SOME PEOPLE HAVE ARGUED WE SHOULD BE BUILDING UP THIS SO-CALLED HERD IMMUNITY AND THEREFORE MAYBE IT'S A GOOD IDEA TO LET A LOT OF YOUNGER PEOPLE, WHO OBVIOUSLY WILL NOT HAVE, CHANCES ARE, SERIOUS AND ADVERSE CONSEQUENCES TO CONTRACTING COVID-19, LET THEM BUILD UP THE ANTIBODIES FASTER, YOU KNOW, THEY CAN GET THE VIRUS, THEY'RE HIGHLY UNLIKELY TO BE KILLED OR SERIOUSLY DAMAGED BY THIS. WHAT'S YOUR VIEW OF THAT?

Dawn says WELL, IN TRUTH, I MEAN, GOING BACK TO MY CHICKEN POX ANALOGY, IMAGINE EVERY CHILD UNDER 10 GOT THIS VIRUS, THEY HAD A WEEK OFF BECAUSE THEY HAD A FEVER OR WEREN'T FEELING WELL OR THEY WERE ASYMPTOMATIC AND PROTECTED FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVE. IT SOUNDS LOVELY BUT IT'S A FANTASY THE WAY OUR SOCIETIES ARE STRUCTURED. WE'VE ALL BEEN VERY COMPLIANT TO OUR SOCIAL DISTANCING, CANADIANS HAVE REALLY LISTENED AND RESPONDED TO OUR PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURES AND WE'RE STILL HAVING MASSIVE DEATHS IN OUR MOST VULNERABLE POPULATIONS. IN ONTARIO, WE'VE SEEN HUGE OUTBREAKS IN NURSING HOMES. SO THIS IDEA THAT YOU COULD SOMEHOW MANAGE THIS INFECTION IN SUCH A WAY THAT ONLY YOUNG PEOPLE WOULD BE ABLE TO GET IT AND WE'D BE ABLE TO PROTECT THE MORE VULNERABLE MEMBERS OF OUR COMMUNITY IS A BIT OF A FANTASY. I THINK AS WELL WHAT WE DON'T UNDERSTAND ABOUT THIS VIRUS NOW IS IF THERE ARE GOING TO BE LONG-TERM HEALTH CONSEQUENCES TO HAVING IT. CERTAINLY WE KNOW THAT HAVING A PNEUMONIA SERIOUS ENOUGH TO BE HOSPITALIZED AS A MIDDLE AGED OLDER PERSON CAN ACCELERATE OTHER HEALTH CONDITIONS AND THERE'S NO REASON TO THINK THAT COVID-19 WOULDN'T BE THE SAME. SO ALTHOUGH THAT I AM OF COURSE SYMPATHETIC TO THE FACT THAT PEOPLE'S JOBS ARE ON THE LINE, OUR ECONOMY IS SHUT DOWN, YOU KNOW, OUR SOCIAL LIVES HAVE BEEN AFFECTED FOR THE WORSE, I THINK WHAT WE NEED TO BE AWARE OF IS WE CANNOT CREATE A SYSTEM IN WHICH WE ONLY INFECT YOUNG PEOPLE AND DON'T PUT THEIR GRANDPARENTS, THEIR AUNTS AND UNCLES, THEIR TEACHERS, THE REST OF THEIR COMMUNITY AT RISK. FOR THAT REASON, I'M NOT SUPPORTIVE OF TRYING TO GENERATE HERD IMMUNITY BECAUSE EVEN IN OUR VERY SOCIAL DISTANCING WE HAVE NOW, WE'RE STILL SEEING A HUGE LOSS OF LIFE IN OUR MORE VULNERABLE POPULATIONS.

Steve says DANA, LET ME GO TO YOU ON THIS ONE. OTHER COUNTRIES, INCLUDING THE UNITED KINGDOM, I'M TOLD, ARE CONSIDERING SOMETHING WE REFERRED TO EARLIER, THESE IMMUNITY PASSPORTS OR CERTIFICATES, AND THEY'D ALLOW PEOPLE WHO HAVE RECOVERED FROM THE VIRUS TO SORT OF, YOU KNOW, REOPEN THEIR LIVES, RESUME THEIR NORMAL LIVES AND HELP RE-START THE ECONOMY. DO YOU HAVE A SENSE ABOUT WHAT THAT MIGHT LOOK LIKE IF WE WERE TO TRY THAT IN CANADA?

Dana says WELL, I THINK TO GO BACK TO WHAT WE WERE DISCUSSING EARLIER, THE FIRST THING WE NEED IS AN ACCURATE TEST WHICH CAN ACTUALLY TELL US WHICH PROPORTION OF THE POPULATION IS ACTUALLY PROTECTED, HAS IMMUNITY, AND PUT BACK TO WORK. THERE ARE CLEARLY A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN TESTED WHO HAVE HAD SYMPTOMS THAT MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN COVID-19, AND THEY ALL NEED TO BE EVALUATED AND UNDERSTAND WHETHER THEY WOULD BE ELIGIBLE FOR THAT TEST. I THINK IT'S A VERY DIFFERENT THING TO DO IN CANADIAN SOCIETY, TO THINK YOU WOULD BE WALKING AROUND WITH, QUOTE, UNQUOTE, PAPERS, IT WOULD FEEL LIKE SOMETHING NEW TO US AND IT WOULD BE MORE THAN A STICKER ON YOUR DRIVER'S LICENCE.

Steve says JEANNIE, IT DOES FEEL... I DON'T WANT TO OVERSTATE THIS... BUT IT HAS SOME AUTHORITARIAN ASPECTS TO IT. BUT IF THERE WERE A WAY TO GRADUALLY REOPEN OUR ECONOMY TO ALLOW THOSE WHO HAVE THIS SO-CALLED IMMUNITY PASSPORT TO GET BACK OUT THERE AND LEAD A MORE NORMAL LIFE, DO YOU THINK THAT WOULD BE ADVISABLE?

Jeannie says WELL, I HAVE TO AGREE WITH DANA'S COMMENTS AS WELL. THE OTHER THING IS WE DON'T KNOW HOW LONG THAT IMMUNITY IS GOING TO LAST. SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? TEST PEOPLE EVERY THREE MONTHS? EVERY SIX MONTHS TO DETERMINE IF THEY STILL HAVE IMMUNITY? AND THEN TAKE AWAY THEIR PASSPORT WHEN THEIR IMMUNITY DROPS OFF UNTIL THEY GET REINFECTED AGAIN AND THEN TEST POSITIVE AGAIN? IT SEEMS EXCELLENT IN THEORY, BUT I THINK WE'RE A LONG WAY FROM SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

Steve says DAWN, WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON IT?

Dawn says ALTHOUGH THEORETICALLY I CAN DEFINITELY SEE THE UTILITY, AND CERTAINLY EVERYONE I SPEAK TO WANTS TO KNOW... THEY WANT ME TO TEST THEIR BLOOD BECAUSE THEY WANT TO KNOW IF THEY HAVE COVID. I COMPLETELY AGREE WE DON'T KNOW HOW LONG OR EVEN IF EVERYBODY WHO GENERATES AN ANTIBODY GENERATES A PROTECTIVE ANTIBODY. SO GOING BACK TO MY H.I.V. ANALOGY, SOME PEOPLE MAY BE GENERATING ANTIBODY RESPONSES SO THEY GET A POSITIVE RESULT ON THOSE TESTS, BUT THOSE ANTIBODIES MIGHT NOT BE AS PROTECTIVE AS WE THINK. THE UNFORTUNATE THING ABOUT THIS VIRUS IS WE NEED MORE TIME TO UNDERSTAND IT. WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE IMMUNE [indiscernible] OF PROTECTION AND WE CAN MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS ABOUT WHO IS SAFE TO GO BACK TO WORK, WHO IS SAFE TO GO BACK INTO THEIR COMMUNITY AND WHO ISN'T.

Steve says I KNOW YOU WANT MORE TIME BUT I DON'T KNOW IF YOU SAW THE PRIME MINISTER'S BRIEFING EARLIER. HE HAD TO FEND OFF NUMEROUS QUESTIONS FROM REPORTERS WHO WERE, YOU KNOW, WHO I GUESS ARE ASKING ON BEHALF OF THE POPULATION OF CANADA HOW MUCH LONGER ARE WE GOING TO HAVE TO DO THIS? PREMIER FORD SAID THE OTHER DAY, PEOPLE ARE GETTING SQUIRRELY. THAT WAS HIS WORD, SQUIRRELY. ABOUT HAVING TO BE IN SELF-ISOLATION FOR SO LONG. I'M WONDERING, DAWN, FOR YOU FOLKS WHO DO WHAT YOU DO, ARE FEELING THE PRESSURE TO COME THROUGH WITH SOMETHING SOONER RATHER THAN LATER BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, ONE DOESN'T KNOW HOW LONG THE CANADIAN POPULATION IS GOING TO PLAY BALL WITH THESE PROTOCOLS.

Dawn says NO, THERE'S A REAL CONCERN THAT WE MIGHT HAVE FATIGUE FROM SOCIAL DISTANCING AND THE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES ARE HUGE AND THEY'RE GOING TO BE LONG LASTING. I WOULD SAY I'VE NEVER SEEN THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY MOVE SO QUICKLY AND COMPATIBLY. IF IMMUNITY LASTS FOR THREE MONTHS OR SIX MONTHS, WE'VE ONLY HAD THREE MONTHS SINCE THE CHINESE OUTBREAK. SO WE'RE REALLY LEARNING FROM THEM, AND THEN THE ITALIANS ARE GOING TO SHARE THEIR DATA AND THE REST OF EUROPE AND WE'LL LEARN FROM OUR AMERICAN COLLEAGUES. SO THERE'S A HUGE COMMUNITY OF SCIENTISTS ALL SHARING INFORMATION, SHARING PROTOCOLS, SHOWING DETAILS ABOUT HOW WE'RE GOING TO DEAL WITH THIS. SO SCIENCE IS WORKING AS QUICK AS IT POSSIBLY CAN. I JUST WANT TO ECHO MY COLLEAGUES: WE HAVE TO HAVE GOOD, SPECIFIC, PRECISE TESTS TO GIVE PEOPLE THE INFORMATION THEY NEED, AND UNFORTUNATELY THERE'S NOTHING THAT CAN REPLACE TIME TO DO THINGS RIGHT.

Steve says HMM. WELL, FORGIVE ME, JEANNIE, BUT I AM GOING TO ASK THE QUESTION ABOUT TIME. HOW MUCH TIME BEFORE YOU THINK YOU WILL KNOW WHETHER THE TREATMENT THAT YOU ARE HELPING TO TEST IS SUCCESSFUL AND FOR WHOM?

Jeannie says OKAY. SO WE'RE MOVING VERY, VERY FAST. NORMALLY IT WOULD TAKE US A YEAR TO TWO YEARS TO LAUNCH A CLINICAL TRIAL. WE WOULD NORMALLY DO A PILOT TRIAL, MAKE SURE WE'VE WORKED OUT ALL THE BUGS OF THE CLINICAL TRIAL. INSTEAD OF BEING ONE TO TWO YEARS, WE'VE DROPPED THAT TO FOUR WEEKS. WE HOPE TO HAVE OUR FIRST DONOR, OUR FIRST RECIPIENT, IN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS. WE'VE RAMPED UP THINGS VERY, VERY FAST, AND EVERY SINGLE HOSPITAL, UNIVERSITY, CANADIAN BLOOD SERVICES, HEMA QUEBEC, EVERYBODY IS WORKING AT LIGHT SPEED TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN. WE'VE WORKED WITH 1200 PATIENTS TO BE IN THE CLINICAL TRIAL AND WE HOPE TO HAVE AN ANSWER SOMETIME BY THE END OF THE YEAR EARLY 2021.

Steve says HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO CRUNCH THE CLOCK SO MUCH?

Jeannie says WELL, THINGS I WOULD SAY NORMALLY TAKE A YEAR TO COME UP WITH A PROTOCOL REQUIRED PROBABLY ABOUT A HUNDRED PEOPLE WORKING STRAIGHT FOR TWO WEEKS TO DEVELOP THAT PROTOCOL. WE HAD MEETINGS TWICE A DAY, AND THAT WENT THROUGH WEEKENDS, LONG WEEKENDS. THERE HAS BEEN NO REST FOR ANYONE IN THE TRANSFUSION MEDICINE INFECTIOUS DISEASE, ICU, AS PART OF OUR TEAM, AND BASICALLY WE'RE WORKING PEOPLE AT 40 DIFFERENT HOSPITALS VERY, VERY HARD.

Steve says JEANNIE, JUST FINALLY, WHAT OTHER QUESTIONS ARE YOU HOPING TO ANSWER THROUGH THIS STUDY THAT MIGHT HELP THOSE WHO ARE FACING FUTURE PANDEMICS?

Jeannie says SO WE'RE TRYING TO ANSWER THE QUESTION OF WHETHER BLOOD AND PLASMA WILL STOP PEOPLE NEEDING TO GO INTO INTENSIVE CARE OR USE A VENTILATOR, AND THAT HAS HUGE IMPACTS ON THE PATIENT BUT JUST THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IN GENERAL. WE ARE ALSO TRYING TO FIGURE OUT, WHO ARE THE BEST DONORS AND WHO ARE THE BEST RECIPIENTS THAT ARE GOING TO BENEFIT THE MOST FROM THIS BY LOOKING AT DIFFERENT SUB GROUPS OF PATIENTS. SO I THINK WE'RE GOING TO LEARN A LOT FROM A WHOLE BUNCH OF DIFFERENT ANALYSES ON THE PATIENTS THAT ARE GOING TO BE PARTICIPATING IN THIS TRIAL, BOTH ON THE DONOR AND THE RECIPIENT SIDE.

The caption changes to "Producer: Patricia Kozicka, @TrishKozicka."

Steve says NEEDLESS TO SAY, THE WHOLE COUNTRY WISHES YOU WELL IN YOUR WORK. THAT'S JEANNIE CALLUM FROM SUNNYBROOK HEALTH SCIENCES CENTRE. AND WE ALSO THANK DAWN BOWDISH, THE CANADA RESEARCH CHAIR IN AGING AND IMMUNITY AT McMASTER UNIVERSITY IN HAMILTON, AND DANA DEVINE, THE CHIEF SCIENTIST AT CANADIAN BLOOD SERVICES IN VANCOUVER. GOOD OF ALL OF YOU TO JOIN US ON TVO TONIGHT. THANKS SO MUCH.

Dawn says THANK YOU.

Jeannie says THANK YOU.

Dana says THANK YOU.

Watch: In Search of COVID-19 Immunity