TORONTO — A new study conducted by Statistics Canada will work to identify how many Canadians have been previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
According to a press release issued Monday, the program will be the first to use a nationally representative sample to reflect COVID-19 seroprevalence across Canada at national, provincial, and territorial levels.
“As we live through a current COVID-19 resurgence, this study will provide a unique opportunity to survey and randomly test Canadians, giving us a reliable snapshot of how many people have had COVID-19,” Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in the release
She went on to say that the study will provide health experts with important information on how much COVID-19 transmission there has been in Canada and among which populations.
“We will then use this information, with the provinces and territories, to further inform the public health response to COVID-19 across Canada,” Tam said.
The survey, called the Canadian COVID-19 Antibody and Health Survey, involves sending test kits and surveys to the homes of 48,000 Canadians ages one and up in all provinces and territories.
The objective is to assess how many Canadians have had COVID-19, and whether they had symptoms or not, according to the release.
“Earlier studies from healthy blood donors in May suggested that under 1 per cent of Canadians had had COVID-19, but this is likely higher now,” co-chair of Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) Catherine Hankins said.
Hankins said in the release that the study will involve children and adults from rural and urban settings to provide “reliable general population estimates for provinces and territories amidst a second wave.”
According to the release, the federal government is investing $7 million through the CITF to support the program.
Statistics Canada says it has already begun contacting Canadians to participate in the study and will be mailing out more surveys and test kits in the coming months.
StatCan says researchers are choosing participants based on a formula determined to get the most representative sample for the study’s goals. The agency said people not approached cannot volunteer for the study.
Participants will need to fill out an online questionnaire which asks sociodemographic questions as well as information on COVID-19 exposure, experiences, and symptoms. Participants will then need to take a finger prick sample or a dried blood spot test to ascertain whether they have SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, suggesting a previous COVID-19 infection.
Participants will be able to learn their results, along with information on what is known about antibody testing, according to the release.
Anil Arora, chief statistician at Statistics Canada, said the study will draw on the “established world-class expertise” of StatCan to deliver data-driven insight that will aid Canada’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are grateful for the participation of Canadians who have been invited to take part in this survey as their involvement will help Canada obtain the additional evidence to better respond to COVID-19,” Arora said.