CITF Scientific Meeting
Plenary session presentations

We held the CITF Scientific Meeting in Vancouver, B.C., in early March 2023. The goal was to share results from CITF-funded studies and to discuss lessons learned as well as the way forward. Here, we share with you the six Plenary session presentations, as well as a presentation on the CITF Databank.


Perils and promises of science in pandemics 

Particularly during a public health emergency, it is important that the scientific community be engaged and consulted regarding policies and procedures as early as possible. During the pandemic, scientists have played leading roles in addressing problems and proposing solutions. Understanding the science is undeniably key to contain a pandemic, but science is complex, changing, and sometimes incomplete, bringing into sharp relief the need for clear, transparent, and effective communication. With the scientific literature burgeoning with new findings, timely and critical review of the evidence poses challenges. Addressing the promise of science means acknowledging its perils and striving to counter them.

Dr. Catherine Hankins

Former CITF co-Chair, Professor of Public and Population Health at McGill University

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan

Chief Scientist, World Health Organization (WHO)
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation

Prof. Salim Abdool Karim

Director, Centre For AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA)


Public Health and the Pandemic

For over three years, public health officials worldwide have faced more challenges than any of their predecessors, managing the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in an age of globalism, free speech, and social media. Federal, provincial, and territorial public health agencies have played a central leadership role in making sensitive, timely, and informed decisions to protect Canadians from COVID-19 and communicating to the public about the unfolding situation, including crucial measures to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2. In this session, we heard directly from individuals who had important roles as Chief Medical Officers of Health at various times through the COVID-19 pandemic. This session informed participants about some of the key issues and challenges that had to be addressed as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic evolved, lessons learned, and potential future approaches.

Photo of James Talbot

Dr. James Talbot

Adjunct Professor of Public Health at the University of Alberta, Former Chief Medical Officer of Health for
Alberta and Nunavut

Dr. Bonnie Henry

Provincial Health Officer, Ministry of Health, British Columbia

Dr. Deena Hinshaw

Associate Clinical Professor, University of Alberta
Deputy Provincial Officer, British Columbia

Dr. Kami Kandola

Chief Public Health Officer, Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority

Dr. Robert Strang

Chief Medical Officer of Health, Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness


Equity in pandemic research

The pandemic has demonstrated fault lines and inequities in society that place some populations at increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infections and serious outcomes from COVID-19. Ultimately, however, we all depend upon one another to control the spread of infectious diseases. Incorporating a health equity approach to pandemic preparedness, response, and recovery will be to everyone’s benefit. Such an approach depends on leadership at all levels of government, the commitment of all Canadians, and support from a strong public health system.

Dr. Upton Allen

Professor, Department of Paediatrics and Institute of Health Policy Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto;
Chief and Consultant, Division of Infectious Diseases, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)

Sonia Anand

Dr. Sonia Anand

Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, McMaster University
Vascular Medicine Specialist, Hamilton Health Sciences
Associate Chair Equity, Diversity, Department of Medicine, McMaster
Senior Scientist, Population Health Research Institute

Dawn Bowdish

Dr. Dawn Bowdish

Professor, McMaster University
Canada Research Chair in Aging & Immunity, McMaster University

Dr. Nadine Kronfli

Assistant Professor, McGill University
Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and Chronic Viral Illness Service, McGill University Health Centre
Infectious Diseases and Immunity in Global Health Program, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre

Dr. Hudson Reddon

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia
BC Centre on Substance Use


Global/population level pandemic surveillance and diagnostics

Timely dissemination of public health surveillance data to decision-makers has been vital to guide policy and strategic planning in the interest of protecting the health of Canadians. Public health surveillance is also at the heart of infection control and prevention efforts, including prioritization of the most vulnerable populations. The construction and refinement of a pan-Canadian surveillance system operating in an international context is, therefore, an ever-present goal to enable an effective public health system operating in the face of global threats.

Dr. David Buckeridge

Scientific Lead, Data Management & Analysis, CITF;
Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Population and Global Health, McGill University

Dr. Rahul Arora

Adjunct Lecturer, Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary

Doctoral Researcher and Rhodes Scholar, Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Oxford

Dr. Sheila O’Brien

Adjunct Professor, School of Epidemiology & Public Health, University of Ottawa

Associate Director, Epidemiology and Surveillance, Canadian Blood Services

Dr. John Kim

Chief of the Public Health Agency’s National HIV Reference Services (NLHRS) Laboratory at the National Microbiology Laboratory

Public Health Agency of Canada

Photo of Mel Krajden

Dr. Mel Krajden

Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of British Columbia

Medical Director of the BC Centre for Disease Control Public Health Laboratory

Dr. Doug Manuel

Senior Scientist, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine

University of Ottawa


Correlates of protection and precision immunology

Researchers around the world have made significant advances in characterising the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Not only is this important in understanding the key drivers of severe disease, but these advances have been essential for vaccine development. Strong evidence shows that humoral and cell-mediated immunity contribute to remarkable protection against severe disease. Data also show that hybrid immunity confers better protection than vaccine-induced immunity alone.

Photo of James Kellner

Dr. Jim Kellner

Consultant in Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Professor, Departments of Pediatrics, Community Health Sciences,
and Microbiology, Immunology & Infectious Diseases, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary and Calgary Zone,
Alberta Health Services

Prof. Anne-Claude Gingras

Professor, Dept. of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto

Senior investigator, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute

Dr. Alessandro Sette

Professor, La Jolla Institute For Immunology

Prof. Jane Heffernan

Professor of Mathematics & Statistics, York University

Dr. Matthew Tunis

NACI Executive Secretary

Executive Secretary to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization

Public Health Agency of Canada


How to engage the public during a pandemic

Community engagement is essential to containing a public health emergency and it strengthens communities, providing a base for future actions to tackle underlying inequalities. Practical actions include forming long-term partnerships between public service providers and community-based organizations, giving tangible support to volunteers, and involving communities in research design and conduct. It is also imperative to reach out to the public via media platforms, including newspapers and social media, in order to disseminate information quickly and transparently.

Dr. Catherine Hankins

Former CITF co-Chair, Professor of Public and Population Health at McGill University

Katherine Wu

Journalist, The Atlantic

Mr. André Picard

Journalist, The Globe and Mail

CITF Databank presentation

The CITF launched the CITF Databank to further enhance the impact of its funded studies. Canadian and international researchers can request access to the data held in the CITF Databank free of charge. The Databank will store archived and harmonized data from over 70 epidemiological and immunological studies of COVID-19 in Canada. This session further explained the CITF Databank and answered questions.

Dr. David Buckeridge

Scientific Lead, Data Management & Analysis, CITF
Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Population and Global Health, McGill University