The Government of Canada, through its COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) and Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group (VSRG), is investing more than $8 million on four studies led by researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa.
The studies aim to answer important questions about COVID-19 vaccines, including how well they work in people with cancer and with inherited and medication-related immune deficiencies. One of the studies will also be looking at post-COVID-19 conditions.
Vaccine efficacy in cancer patients
More than 2 million Canadians are currently living with cancer and many have weakened immune systems, either due to the cancer itself, or due to treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. This makes patients more susceptible to viruses like SARS-CoV-2. It is important for these patients to have protection through vaccination, but a weak immune system can mean a weaker response to vaccines. However, very little research has been done on COVID-19 vaccines in people with cancer.
Two studies will investigate vaccine efficacy in cancer patients. Prospective Cohort Study to Examine Immunogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 Vaccination in Cancer Patients with Solid Malignancies, led by Dr. Glenwood Goss, will determine if people with many kinds of cancer (e.g. lung, breast, prostate, colon and other solid tumours) can mount an appropriate immune response to COVID-19 vaccines.
The second study, A prospective multi-site observational study of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination immunogenicity in patients with hematologic malignancies, led by Dr. Arianne Buchan, aims to determine how well COVID-19 vaccines work in people with blood cancer, specifically.
COVID-19 vaccine efficacy in people with inherited and medication-related immune deficiencies
People with inherited immune deficiencies have a greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 and may be less likely to respond to vaccines. People with multiple sclerosis, arthritis and other immune-mediated diseases may also be at risk because medications for these conditions often suppress the immune system. A study called COVID-19 Vaccine Immunogenicity and Safety in ImmunoDeficient patients, led by Dr. Juthaporn Cowan will provide crucial data to help protect people with immune deficiencies against COVID-19 and discover which component of the immune system is essential in the COVID-19 vaccine response, so that tailored vaccines can be developed in future.
Duration of immunity
The new funding from the CITF will allow an existing study, Stop the Spread Ottawa, led by Dr. Marc-André Langlois, to expand. The new portion of the research, called Fine analysis of longitudinal immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 in vaccination: Harnessing the power of ‘Stop The Spread Ottawa’ to understand immune protection in COVID-19, led by Dr. Angela Crawley, will evaluate how immune cells, called T cells, respond to COVID-19 as well as antibodies, and follow participants into 2022.
“All four of these studies are highly important as we do not yet have enough scientific evidence about the immune response in people with health vulnerabilities such as cancer or weakened immune systems,” says Dr. Caroline Quach Thanh, VSRG Co-Chair. “Another area of study we’re increasingly looking into is the repercussions of COVID-19 on people who have long-lasting symptoms. Dr. Crawley and Dr. Langlois’ research will help illuminate the science around them.”
For more information about all four studies, visit The Ottawa Hospital website.
About the Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group
The Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group (VSRG) supports the monitoring of the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada. It is a consortium of Canadian organizations – the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN), the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), and the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) – working collaboratively to pool expertise on vaccine surveillance. The VSRG reports to PHAC and is supported by the CITF Secretariat. It is co-chaired by the leader CIRN and the former chair of NACI. Among its responsibilities, the VSRG, through the CITF Executive Committee, makes recommendations to PHAC on funding research teams that can address important aspects of the immune response, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines with public health relevance and with attention to all priority groups.
About the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force
The Government of Canada established the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force in late April 2020. The Task Force is overseen by a Leadership Group of volunteers that includes leading Canadian scientists and experts from universities and healthcare facilities across Canada who are focused on understanding the nature of immunity arising from the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. To that end, the CITF is supporting numerous studies to determine the extent of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Canada (in the general population as well as in specific communities and priority populations), understand the nature of immunity following infection, develop improved antibody testing methods, and help monitor the effectiveness and safety of vaccines as they are rolled out across Canada. The Task Force and its Secretariat work closely with a range of partners, including governments, public health agencies, institutions, health organizations, research teams, other task forces, and engages communities and stakeholders. Most recently, the Task Force has been asked to support vaccine surveillance, including monitoring vaccine effectiveness and safety, as part of its overall objective to generate data and ideas that inform interventions aimed at slowing—and ultimately stopping—the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Canada. For more information visit: www.covid19immunitytaskforce.ca
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