U of G Vaccine Researcher Makes Headlines

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Prof Byram Bridle

Prof. Byram Bridle, with the Department of Pathobiology at U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College, appeared Sunday on Global TV’s The West Block with Mercedes Stephenson for a segment on whether hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine within the next year are misplaced.

Bridle told the show that Canadians need to come to terms with how unlikely such a time frame is.

“I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but I would say it’s highly improbable,” he said. “…Everybody wants hope, and the reason why I’m speaking out, though, is that false hope can be really problematic.”

Bridle also spoke to The Globe and Mail for an article about it’s important for most people to get the vaccine once it’s available, to build “herd immunity.” Bridle noted that he is worried that rushing a vaccine out to the market could undermine public trust in that vaccine which might lead to poor uptake of the vaccine.

“As soon as you use terms like ‘warp speed,’ it creates the impression that corners are being cut and a lot of people will question the safety of the vaccine,” he said.

Bridle raised similar concerns in a recent Conversation Canada commentary he wrote with pathobiology colleague Prof. Shayan Sharif, associate dean of research and graduate studies at OVC. In that piece, they argued that it may not be possible to develop an effective COVID vaccine at “warp speed.”

“We contend that a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 most likely cannot be made available to the public in time to make a substantial difference to the natural outcome of this pandemic,” they wrote.

Bridle’s team was one of 15 research teams across Ontario that recently received rapid provincial research funding to pursue research to develop a vaccine against the pandemic virus. They hope to adapt technology they developed that uses viruses to deliver cancer therapies.

Their plan is to develop avian and adenoviruses that could deliver proteins that would help humans fight off the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Watch the West Block segment here