On April 29, 2023, the Benin Immunology Society (BIS) in partnership with the Federation of African Immunological Societies (FAIS) successfully hosted an enlightening webinar to celebrate the Day of Immunology. The virtual event drew 30 participants and focused on the crucial role immunologists play in crafting public health strategies, particularly in the COVID-19 era.
- Opening Remarks by BIS and FAIS Presidents
The session was co-chaired by the presidents of BIS and FAIS, Dr.Tomabu Adjobimey and Prof. Pa Tamba N’gom, respectively. Tomabu Adjobimey, quick off the webinar with a steering welcoming address. Shortly after, Prof. Pa Tamba N’gom, President of FAIS, provided a compelling introduction.
- Webinar Structure and Panelists
The session was proficiently moderated by Mrs. Deo Gracias Berry and Dr. Fabien Prodjinotho, who are the General Secretary of BIS and the Chair of the Education Committee, respectively. The distinguished panel included Prof. Adallah Badou from Hassan II University, Casablanca, Morocco, who is also the General Secretary of FAIS, Dr. Robert Shey from the University of Buea in Cameroon, Prof. YAPO-CREZOIT chiaye Claire from the Pasteur Institute of Côte d’Ivoire, Dr. Marah G. Chibwana from the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Programme, and Dr. Mohlopheni Jackson Marakalala, from the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in Durban, South Africa.
- Part 1: The Pre-COVID-19 Era
The first segment of the webinar highlighted the significant role immunologists had in shaping public health strategies before the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists underlined the impact of immunology research and its impressive contributions to the development of vaccines, immunotherapy, and treatments for infectious diseases. They also thoroughly examined the challenges faced by immunologists in the pre-COVID-19 era, including financial constraints, public perception, and skepticism within the scientific community.
- Part 2: The Post-COVID-19 Era
The second segment transitioned to the role of immunologists post-COVID-19, particularly their ongoing efforts to structure public health strategies for potential future pandemics. Panelists evaluated the deep-seated impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both immunology and public health. They further explored how immunologists have responded to the pandemic through vaccine development, treatment formulation, and public health policy creation. The discussion also covered current challenges like the emergence of new virus variants and the need for continued research.
- Part 3: Q&A Session
A Q&A session concluded the webinar, providing participants an opportunity to engage directly with the speakers about the role of immunologists in shaping public health strategies. The speakers offered insights from their research, shared their professional experiences, and voiced their outlooks for the future of immunology and public health.
- Conclusion and Recommendations
The event concluded with insightful closing remarks from the presidents of FAIS and BIS, reinvigorating the attendees’ appreciation for the field of immunology and its significant influence on public health. The discussion highlighted the urgent need for ongoing dialogue and collaboration within the field of immunology, especially in light of the current global health context.
The webinar proved to be a resounding success, fostering a rich exchange of ideas and dialogue. Both BIS and FAIS extend their deepest gratitude to all speakers, moderators, and participants for their invaluable contributions and eagerly anticipate hosting more such illuminating events in the future.
Building on the insights gleaned from this webinar, we make the following recommendations:
- Foster an Environment of Collaboration: Encourage ongoing cooperation between immunologists and public health strategists to effectively anticipate and respond to potential future health crises.
- Strengthen Support for Immunology Research: Advocate for increased funding and resources to support the critical work of immunologists, who are at the forefront of developing vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases.
- Enhance Public Understanding of Immunology: Develop public education campaigns to demystify the field of immunology and its vital role in protecting public health, to build trust and understanding among the wider public.
- Prepare for Future Pandemics: Draw on the experiences and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to build robust strategies for future potential pandemics. This includes supporting research into new virus variants and boosting overall pandemic preparedness.
In conclusion, the role of immunologists in shaping public health strategies is integral and ever-evolving. As we navigate the current health challenges and prepare for potential future crises, the need for knowledge exchange, collaboration, and innovation within the field of immunology cannot be overstated.
Watch the webinar here!