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Dr. Darren Yuen

What you still need to know about COVID-19
More than two years into the pandemic, the kidney community continues to be more vulnerable than the general population, which has started its transition to the new reality. Luckily, many breakthroughs have been made, thanks to the tireless efforts of researchers who aim to prevent and treat COVID-19 in immunocompromised individuals, giving the kidney community a gleam of hope. 

Although these medical advances are promising, the effects of COVID-19 are still threatening at-risk people, including kidney and transplant patients. Dr. Darren Yuen, nephrologist, and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, is strongly urging the kidney community to practice caution in their day-to-day life and follow public health guidelines. The importance of wearing adequate masks hasn’t diminished yet for this population. Masks and social distancing are still the first layers of protection for patients, he explains. Whether you’re heading to an indoor or outdoor gathering, at-risk individuals should continue wearing masks, in any setting, to help protect against COVID-19*.  Make sure to stay informed and follow the latest guidelines in your province, as they’re frequently changing.  
Dr. Yuen wants to also remind the kidney community about the importance of vaccines and booster shots, which he considers the second protective layer against this virus. All provinces are currently offering a 4th dose (booster shot) to vulnerable people and some even a 5th dose. It is important to keep in mind that the level of protection the vaccine offers the immunocompromised community varies, and that it’s not always effective. Make sure you consult with your care team to check the availability in your province and to understand if you’re eligible for an additional booster shot. 

These layers of defense against COVID-19 may provide additional protection and safety to those comfortable returning to certain aspects of life pre-pandemic, in Dr. Yuen’s opinion. Nevertheless, even with these guidelines in place, infection is still possible. Researchers are aware of this reality and have been working on providing preventative and treatment options. Their efforts have led to many breakthroughs, one of which has been a preventative medicine and treatment called Evusheld  (tixagevimab and cilgavimab) that has been recently approved by Health Canada. Dr. Yuen is optimistic about this discovery, as it increases COVID-19 antibody levels in patients, offering additional protection for up to six months. Although studies are still in the preliminary stages, they have been showing some promising results, he explains. It’s crucial to note that this medication doesn’t replace any dose of the vaccine, but it merely adds an additional layer of protection. 

As for treatments, a few antibody mediated therapies are currently available for the kidney community. These treatments work on preventing the progression of COVID-19 symptoms in infected patients, in the form of pills or even injections. Unfortunately, some may interfere with other classes of medications often used in chronic disease and post-transplant treatments. In case of COVID-19 infection, make sure you ask your doctor and care team about the best treatment options for you. 

In an ever-changing environment, with new variants being discovered frequently, researchers and the medical community face immense challenges to develop preventative and treatment options that are effective for all patients against variants. “More than 2 years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the research and clinical communities are maintaining their dedication to ensuring that the entire population is being provided options, support, and knowledge to help protect against COVID-19 infection,” observes Leanne Stalker, National Director of Research at The Kidney Foundation of Canada. “As time passes, we learn more about this virus, develop new techniques and options, and continue to build a knowledge base to help everyone, including the most vulnerable.”

“This has been a long, difficult period for the clinical and research communities, with increased demands and reduced bandwidth. The Kidney Foundation of Canada would like to take this opportunity to recognize their on-going commitment,” concludes Stalker.
*Content is accurate as of publishing time