Applying Technology to Battle COVID

By Hubert Yoshida posted 01-07-2021 19:13

The world is eagerly awaiting the delivery of a number of vaccines to deliver us from the scourge of COVID-19 in order to develop population immunity so that we can resume our lives as we knew it before the beginning of last year. The fact that vaccines were developed in such a short time is a testament to how technology has advanced and how it can be used for social innovation.

Vaccines train our immune systems to create proteins that fight disease. These proteins are known as ‘antibodies’, which would be developed by our bodies to fight a disease as would happen were we to be exposed to a disease but – crucially – vaccines work without making us sick. Vaccinated people are protected from getting the disease in question and passing on the pathogen, breaking any chains of transmission. 

To safely achieve population immunity against COVID-19, a substantial proportion of a population would need to be vaccinated, lowering the overall amount of virus able to spread in the whole population. One of the aims for achieving population immunity is to keep vulnerable groups who cannot get vaccinated (e.g. due to health conditions like allergic reactions to the vaccine) safe and protected from the disease. 

The percentage of people who need to be immune in order to achieve population immunity varies with each disease. For example, population immunity against measles requires about 95% of a population to be vaccinated. The remaining 5% will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated. For polio, the threshold is about 80%. The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing population immunity is not known. The length of the immunity is also a factor. If the immunity wears off faster than we can immunize new people we might end up in a vicious circle. This is an important area of research and will likely vary according to the community, the vaccine, the populations prioritized for vaccination, and other factors. Until this is known, we will need to continue social distancing, masking and movement restriction.

Another unknown is the new recently discovered variants of COVID-19. How well, will the current vaccines work on these new variants? The scientists tell us that the new Vaccine technology, which uses messenger RNA (mRNA), should still be effective since this method triggers the immune system to produce protective antibodies without using actual bits of the virus. mRNA are snippets of genetic code which contains information about the coronavirus’s signature spike protein. The vaccines essentially work by sneaking in instructions that direct the body to produce a small amount of the spike protein. Once the immune system detects this protein, the body subsequently begins producing protective antibodies. It’s a clever trick.
The vaccines don’t contain any part of the virus, so recipients can’t become infected from the shots. Hitachi has been active in the biotechnology of extraction, measurement, and analysis of RNA molecules to help in the development of mRNA technologies in the treatment of diseases like Cancer.

Physical distancing, wearing masks, and restricting our travel and social interactions has grown very wearing after a year. It has brought social and economic life to near stop and has disproportionately affected people at lower income levels who must live and work in overcrowded conditions and depend on daily labor for subsistence. You can’t work remotely when the produce has to be picked or the assembly line or packing plant has to be attended.
These people should be among the first to be vaccinated next to the first responders. Even when we achieve population immunity from COVID-19, we need to adopt a comprehensive enterprise risk management (ERM) framework, backed by a suite of digital solutions, to get employees back to the shop floor — in a safe and secure manner.

Rajesh Devnani, Vice President, Digital Solutions Division at Hitachi Vantara and Justin Bean, Global Director of Smart Spaces Marketing at Hitachi Vantara have published a recent blog on the Health and Safety of Workers which addresses how combining existing and new technologies like 3d Lidar and Lumada Visual analytics can reduce risks and safeguard workers.
This blog includes a road to recovery checklist.

Creating a safe and healthy workplace sets off a chain reaction that leads to a safer and more prosperous world for all. Having the right information to measure, communicate and mitigate risk creates a plan for the unexpected, so it can make your organization stronger, less fragile and more resilient. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to dictate so much right now, and the way companies reopen will set a vision for the future.

Finding the right answers gets everyone back to doing the things they value. You can do better work, create better products and solutions for your customers, do your part to strengthen the economy, and contribute to a more sustainable world — and Hitachi is ready to help. We’re all in this together like never before. Let’s power good together.

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