As most Canadians know, COVID-19 has hit long-term care facilities (LTC) across Canada hard. From Halifax to Vancouver. The data shows that LTC’s account for about 60% of deaths from the virus and 70% if we include retirement homes. And it’s not just the residents that are getting the virus, it’s the care workers as well.
As we seek to understand why, the federal government, through the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) is providing $5.8 Million to support two studies that will investigate the various aspects of immunity and how people are responding to vaccines in LTCs. For now, these studies are focusing on Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. Although Atlantic Canada was hit hard in LTCs it would seem that part of the country, as usual, is not being included in the studies, which is odd given Nova Scotia itself has one of the highest ageing populations in Canada.
Bruyere Research Institute and the University of Ottawa are getting $3.5 Million to look at LTC facilities in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. “We will compare the immune response in individuals who previously had COVID-19, those who got vaccinated, and those who have not been infected,” explains co-investigator Marc-André Langlois, Professor at the University of Ottawa. “By linking the information that we find from analyzing their blood to healthcare data, we will be able to follow individuals over time to look at their long-term outcomes following an infection and the duration of protection they get from vaccination. We will track the occurrence of adverse events and serious illness over time. More specifically, we will be closely analyzing the subgroup of antibodies, called virus neutralizing antibodies, that protect against new infections.”
The second study, which will receive the remaining $5 Million and is being led by Dr. Sharon Straus of St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto, will focus on 72 LTCs in the Greater Toronto Area and the Ottawa-Champlian region.
“We want to know how many people previously had COVID-19, whether they had symptoms or not,” explains Dr. Straus, Physician-in-Chief, St. Michael’s Hospital and Professor in the Department of Medicine, University of Toronto. “We will learn what factors at the home, which individual factors, and what immune-response levels are associated with previous COVID-19 infection or with the prevention of infection. We will also be able to track how the COVID-19 vaccines influence immune responses over time.”
It would appear that the research is looking at immune response and infection control measures into the future with an additional focus on resident and careworker wellness. There’s an additional $920,000 coming from a joint project funded by the Canadian Foundation for Health Improvement ((CFHI) and Canadian Patient Safety Institute that will help implement interventions in long-term care facilities and shelters for those who experience homelessness.
Says Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, ““Their results will support strategies to better protect residents and staff in these facilities.” It is hoped these studies will also help better understand the rates of infection of COVID across the country, minus Atlantic Canada and the northern parts of the country.
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Author: Alex Hurst is a writer for HUM@Nmedia, the parent brand for Silver and Optimyz Magazines based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.