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3 Nova Scotians appointed to national COVID-19 immunity task force

Three Nova Scotian doctors, Dr. Susan Kirkland, Dr. Scott Halperin and Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, were appointed to the national COVID-19 immunity task force, announced May 22.
Three Nova Scotian doctors, Dr. Susan Kirkland, Dr. Scott Halperin and Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, were appointed to the national COVID-19 immunity task force, announced May 22. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert/File Photo

A group of three health researchers from Nova Scotia will take part in Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force Leadership Group.

The task force will be conducting serological research, trying to understand exposure, how to safely open up the economy, identify the most vulnerable populations and how to protect them.

They will also be researching ways to prepare for immunization, once it’s available.

READ MORE: Timberlea man is Nova Scotia’s first convalescent plasma donor

PM Justin Trudeau announced the establishment of the task force on April 23.

Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, vice-president of research and innovation for the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), said she was impressed by the federal investment.

Tomblin Murphy is one of three Nova Scotian health researchers appointed to the COVID-19 task force.

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She’s joined by Dr. Susan Kirkland, NSHA and Dalhousie University’s chief of community health and epidemiology and Dr. Scott Halperin, director of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology.

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Tomblin Murphy says being a part of this is a privilege and opportunity to highlight the voice of N.S. healthcare experts.

“The thing that really excites me … [is that] we will be able to engage scientists and experts, through potentially funding their work, which is really important to get this off the ground,” she said.
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According to a press release, the primary focus of the task force will be researching the power of COVID-19 antibody blood tests and find potential immunity.

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A part of this research is the partnership with Canadian Blood Services which is currently gathering donations of convalescent plasma from donors who have recovered from COVID-19.

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Tomblin Murphy, who is also the director of the World Health Organization collaborating centre, says partnerships like these can make a huge difference to the health of the population.

The task force will act as a facilitator to expedite the work of scientists and allow their results to quickly inform government and health officials.

“This evidence needs to get into the hands of those making decisions, to make the right decisions,” says Tomblin Murphy.

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The researcher says Canada is lucky to be in the hands of brilliant researchers, including many from Nova Scotia.

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“As Canadians, the pandemic has brought us together in a way that’s wrapped around the needs of Nova Scotians, Canadians. I feel very positive about this task force.”

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