COVID-19 has turned our world upside down and 2020 was a year to remember – or forget. There have been plenty of discussions surrounding the vaccines and there is hope that they will assist in managing the virus. Given the speed that these vaccines have come to the market, many pharmacy professionals and their patients may have questions about use, safety, and effectiveness.
On January 20th, Dr. Jen Gommerman and Dr. Tania Watts, professors of immunology at the University of Toronto, provided a refresher on the science of immunology, immune response, and mechanisms of action of the viruses. Participants uncovered the similarities and differences between the COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccinations, the evidence that was submitted to Health Canada to prove its safety and efficacy, and what led to their approval. The webinar helped answer questions regarding the vaccines, prepared pharmacy professional to address the tough questions, and provided knowledgeable answers to help moderate vaccine hesitancy amongst patients.
Jen Gommerman, PhD
Dr. Jen Gommerman received her Ph.D. (Immunology) at the University of Toronto in 1998. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School and then joined Biogen Inc. as a Staff Scientist in 2000. After 3 years working in the industry, she returned to Academia as an Assistant Professor (Immunology) at the University of Toronto in 2003, and in 2015 was promoted to Professor. Dr. Gommerman’s basic research focuses on autoimmunity, particularly the disease Multiple Sclerosis. Recently, she has been studying the antibody response to SARS¬CoV-2 in patients with COVID-19.
Tania Watt, PhD
Dr. Tania Watts received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry at the University of Alberta in 1983, followed by post-doctoral studies in Chemistry at Stanford University, California. Dr. Watts joined the University of Toronto as an Assistant Professor in Immunology in 1986. Dr. Watts has had a long-term interest in immunity to viruses, focusing on how T lymphocytes respond to and are regulated during acute and chronic infections, such as influenza virus or HIV. She has recently lent her expertise to studying T cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 convalescent patients.
Ruth Ackerman, BScPhm, MBA, RPh
Ruth Ackerman is the Director of Professional Development at the Ontario Pharmacists Association. A graduate of the University of Toronto, Ruth has practiced in many community pharmacy settings across Ontario, in health information publishing, and in a corporate pharmacy setting. She also worked at the Ontario Pharmacists Association from 1997 to 2004. She is a past president of the Metropolitan Toronto Pharmacists Association and the Canadian Pharmacists Association.