In this third pandemic summer, it’s difficult to say anything about Covid that hasn’t been said before. More than two years into this transformative event, we’ve pretty much heard it all. But that doesn’t mean we’ve reached a state of peaceful coexistence with the virus, or an acceptance of pandemic life.
In spite of all that’s unfolded since news of a novel respiratory virus emerged out of Wuhan, China in late 2019, the infection has continued to surprise us and catch us off guard. Even at this late stage, with many effective vaccines and therapies and a near global consensus from authorities that it’s time to roll back measures and learn to “live with the virus”, we continue to struggle with new variants, massive numbers of infections and, in spite of the many effective means of prevention and treatment at our disposal, illness and death.
While many of you have probably had Covid, or at the very least know someone who has, we are by no means done with this pandemic.
I’ve been hesitant to dedicate an episode to Covid and uncertain of the point of expending yet more energy on what is certainly the most talked about subject of the last two years. But faced with the virus’s persistent and ever-changing impact on our lives, and having so many unanswered and nagging questions about our response to it, I decided it needed to be done.
I chose Donald Vinh, an infectious disease clinician and researcher, as my guest for this conversation. Don is an experienced medical communicator, and a measured, rigorous voice on Covid. I came to know of him because of his vocal and unflinching but always factual assessments of our local response to Covid here in Quebec. He’s also actively engaged in research on Covid, and contributed to an international study on severe Covid that was published in the prestigious journal Science in 2020 and was named one of 2020’s 10 remarkable scientific discoveries by the equally prestigious journal Nature. So, he seemed like the ideal person to have on for a deep dive on Covid.
Donald Vinh is an Infectious Disease specialist and Medical Microbiologist at the McGill University Health Centre. He is Director of the Centre of Excellence for Genetic Research in Infection and Immunity, and Fonds de recherche du Québec Santé Senior Scholar with a translational research program on human immunodeficiencies and genetic susceptibility to infectious diseases at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.
His frequent media appearances have earned him a reputation as a trusted voice on infectious diseases, such as Covid-19, monkeypox, and the rare diseases he studies. He has been interviewed on many occasions by such outlets as CBC, BBC, and NPR.
Don and I talked about what his research has to teach us about Covid and how it shifts the paradigm for understanding infectious diseases, his evolution as a medical and scientific communicator, and the benefits and pitfalls of Covid Twitter.
Don's selected publications
Nature's 10 Remarkable Discoveries 2020
Inborn errors of type I IFN immunity in patients with life-threatening COVID-19, Science
Recorded July 19, 2022
Music: Mr Smith
Art: Jeff Landman