Adam MacNeil, Associate Professor of Health Sciences at Brock University, had a piece recently published in The Conversation about the need for change in public health messaging and strategy as the context of the COVID-19 pandemic changes.
“The last of Ontario’s COVID-19 mask mandates — which have still been in effect in settings like hospitals and public transit — are scheduled to expire on June 11. While border protocols, such as random testing, have been extended at least until the end of June, long lineups at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport are fuelling calls to lift them.
COVID-19 is still with us, but just as the virus has changed since 2020, so have our personal and public reactions toward it. As personal risk assessment becomes more important with fewer and fewer public health mandates, there are good lessons to be learned from how our immune system works.
In immunology, the way a threat — such as a virus — is presented to the immune system matters as much as the threat itself. The same can be said of public health messaging: its effectiveness rests on how it’s presented.
The immune system is a diverse collection of tissues, cells, and molecules that — at its core — specialize in highly co-ordinated communication. Antibodies and T-cells are key in assessing how the immune system responds to a novel virus, like SARS-CoV-2. To recognize and respond to the threat, those cells need specific messages clearly presented in specific ways. This leads to tailored protective actions, including those carried out by antibodies.”