Catalyze, support, harmonize
Since the inception of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) in late April 2020, the Leadership Group has stewarded a strategy focused on the mobilization of rapid and reliable knowledge to inform public health policy makers with respect to SARS-CoV-2 infection and immunity. More specifically, through the creation of its Working Parties related to Field Studies (seroprevalence studies), Immune Sciences, and Testing, this has involved efforts to shed light on:
- The levels and trends in SARS-CoV-2 infection through seroprevalence assessment across age-groups, risk groups, and geographies in Canada through engaging blood banks, tapping sources of residual blood, building on existing research platforms, and initiating studies in both general and priority populations;
- The degree and duration of immune protection arising from infection and the risk of reinfection through longitudinal cohorts of persons infected with SARS-CoV-2;
- How best to measure immunity linked to SARS-CoV-2 for diverse purposes ranging from seroprevalence using diverse assays and modes of blood collection (venipuncture, fingerprick), as well as assessing more diverse measures of immune function providing insights into SARS-CoV-2 immunity; and
- Aggregate reporting of seroprevalence findings in Canada and globally through support for the creation of SeroTracker.
In December 2020, the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF), Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Health Canada have converged on the importance of building a major focus on vaccine surveillance in collaboration with the Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN), the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), the Vaccine Task Force (VTF), the provinces and territories. In response, a Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group (VSRG), independent of the CITF but supported by its Secretariat, and reporting to the President of PHAC was constituted to:
- Advance support for accelerated and effective implementation of vaccine surveillance plans across Canada in coordination with existing FPT institutions and with attention to all priority groups, including Indigenous persons, to monitor the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines;
- Curate a list of priority issues and questions related to COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness;
- Inventory existing resources and networks that have the capacity and mandate to monitor vaccine safety and effectiveness, and support them to increase the scope and scale of their activities required to monitor more comprehensively and quickly the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines; and
- Identify specific issues in vaccine surveillance, based on the inventory, and help to develop and support additional surveillance initiatives to address these gaps in coordination with PT authorities.
Our Scientific Strategy, Governance & Operational Plan
We have developed a Scientific Strategy, Governance & Operational Plan outlining our mandate, scientific priorities, governance structure and the roles and responsibilities of our various stakeholders. The document outlines how we are – and will continue – helping Canada fight the COVID-19 pandemic by funding studies that will tell us more about SARS-CoV-2 infection and immunity, which in turn will inform decision-making.
Our scientific focus is on: Field Studies, Immune Science, and Testing. Our Field Studies research drives serologic data collection (How many Canadians have SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, suggesting they have had COVID-19?). Our Immune Science research advances how much we know about immunity (Is immunity a given once someone has had COVID-19? How long does it last?). Our Testing research looks to fine-tune methods for procuring accurate serologic data (ex: validating dried blood spots for use in antibody testing at home).