The COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) and the Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group (VSRG) are supporting a new study that will work with three First Nations communities to investigate vaccine hesitancy, the immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine and health outcomes after vaccination within those communities.
As of November 9, 2021, according to Indigenous Services Canada data reported by First Nations communities, the rate of cumulative COVID-19 cases reported in First Nations communities was 4.3 times the corresponding rate in the general Canadian population.
The study, called COVID CommUNITY- First Nations, will collect, analyze, and report data relating to COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness and safety, as well as explore hesitancy in three First Nations communities in Canada: Six Nations of the Grand River in southwestern Ontario; Lac La Ronge Indian Band in Saskatchewan; and Wendake in Quebec.
“Collaborating to conduct this investigation of COVID-19 immune responses and vaccine hesitancy within our territory will help establish important and crucial COVID-19 data,” says Lori Davis Hill, Director of Six Nations Health Services. “These will in turn assist us in providing the proper support to community members and will help with the continued fight against COVID-19.”
“Research partnerships for initiatives like this one involving First Nations working with other First Nations communities, the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster, the University of Saskatchewan, and Université Laval researchers, will increase capacity within our communities to more effectively deal with COVID-19, which continues to impact our community,” adds Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band.
Manon Picard, Clinical Nursing Advisor at Wendake notes that “This study will indeed allow us to learn more about the relationship between vaccinations, their effectiveness, and the safety that vaccines can provide to the community. In addition, the study’s results may allow us to make certain hypotheses about the reasons why First Nations Peoples are more susceptible to contracting the disease. This partnership will also allow us to have quantitative tools to support our claims about the benefits of the vaccine for our population.”
“First Nations Peoples face historical, colonial and racist policies that influence their health status today in Canada,” says Dr. Sonia Anand, Principal Investigator and Professor of Medicine at McMaster University, Senior Scientist at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster and at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), and Vascular Medicine Specialist at HHS. “This is an important study because many First Nations want research data from their own communities and being partners in such research can increase trust in research and COVID-19 vaccines.”
“First Nations Peoples in Canada have been disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Research is urgently needed to understand why they are more likely to contract and die from COVID-19 than other people in Canada,” says Dr. Tim Evans, CITF Executive Director. “We are very excited this project has been launched in collaboration with several First Nations communities, and we hope that by working together, answers can be found, eventually leading to helpful solutions.”
About McMaster University
McMaster University, one of four Canadian universities listed among the Top 100 universities in the world, is renowned for its innovation in both learning and discovery. It has a student population of 34,000, and more than 195,000 alumni in 162 countries. The Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine has a global reputation for educational advancement, and is internationally known for its research intensity and development of evidence-based medicine.
About the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI)
PHRI, a joint research institute of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, is a world leader in clinical trials, large population health studies and epidemiology expertise. PHRI has the capacity to conduct several international studies concurrently, with as many as 10,000 participants in a study. More than 80 studies are currently underway nationally and globally. Overall, PHRI research encompasses 1.5 million participants in 102 countries on six continents. Founded in 1999 by Dr. Salim Yusuf, who remains PHRI’s Executive Director, the institute’s success is a story of global collaboration and innovation through trans-disciplinary research, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, perioperative and surgery, stroke and brain health, infectious diseases, and more. For more information, visit phri.ca and on Twitter @PHRIresearch.
About Hamilton Health Sciences
Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) is a hospital system of 15,000 staff, physicians, researchers and volunteers that proudly serves south central Ontario residents. We also provide specialized, advanced care to people from across the province. HHS is the only hospital in Ontario that cares for all ages, from pre-birth to end-of-life. We offer world-leading expertise in many areas, including cardiac and stroke care, cancer care, palliative care and pediatrics. We are a world-renowned hospital for healthcare research. We focus daily on improving the quality of care for our patients through innovation and evidence-based practices. As the largest employer in the Greater Hamilton region, HHS plays a vital role in training the next generation of health professionals in collaboration with our academic partners, including McMaster University and Mohawk College.
About the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force
The Government of Canada established the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) in late April 2020 to catalyze, support, fund, and harmonize research on SARS-CoV-2 immunity for federal, provincial, and territorial decision-makers in their efforts to protect Canadians and minimize the impact of COVID-19. To date, the CITF has supported over 100 studies across Canada that are generating critical insights on the levels, trends, nature, and duration of immunity arising from SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 vaccination. The CITF is overseen by a Leadership Group of volunteers that includes leading scientists and policymakers from 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.
Photos of Sonia Anand; Lori Davis Hill, Manon Picard; Tammy Cook-Searson.
Faculty of Health Sciences
COVID-19 Immunity Task Force