The Government of Canada, through its COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) and Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group (VSRG), is supporting a new pan-Canadian study that will monitor the effects of illness from COVID-19, as well as the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in children and youth. Approximately $1.8 million is being invested in this research project.
The vaccines being administered to guard against COVID-19 have gone through rigorous safety and efficacy evaluations in all eligible age groups. Continued surveillance for any vaccine is an important component of ensuring the safety and effectiveness of all vaccines for the general population. This research study is complemented by ongoing safety monitoring by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, and multiple public health organizations.
“Our study will monitor most pediatric hospital visits in Canada and will aim to identify those that may be associated with a COVID-19 infection or vaccination,” says Dr. Karina Top, a principal investigator on the study and a lead investigator at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology at Dalhousie University and the IWK in Halifax. “We want to monitor the symptoms of any children or adolescents admitted to hospital due to COVID-19, including for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), as well as track the continued safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, as we move toward a return to normal life.”
The study will be conducted through Canada’s IMPACT (Immunization Monitoring Program ACTive) network, which has been continuously monitoring multiple pediatric vaccines for more than 30 years. Its efforts inform public health and medical experts of unusual post‑vaccine events. The IMPACT network captures about 90 per cent of tertiary pediatric hospital admissions in Canada and is well positioned to evaluate the impact of vaccination programs on cases of COVID-19 in children and youth who are in hospital.
“As COVID-19 vaccines are made available to 12- to 17-year-olds, and potentially younger age groups in the future, our team will work to ensure continued vaccine effectiveness by studying whether vaccination is associated with fewer children and youth being admitted to hospital with COVID-19, and fewer severe cases of disease,” explains Dr. Shaun Morris, a principal investigator on the study and a pediatric infectious disease physician at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto. “This study, which began on June 1, will build upon the information gathered in our research team’s Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program COVID-19 Study (CPSP COVID-19 Study). That study collected data on this illness from the beginning of the pandemic until the end of May 2021, to provide a more complete understanding of how COVID-19 affects children and youth and how we can best protect them.”
“With the vaccine rollout in youth ages 12 to 17 already underway in Canada, this study is extremely relevant,” says Dr. Caroline Quach Thanh, VSRG Co-Chair and Medical Lead in Infection Prevention and Control at the CHU Sainte-Justine, where she works as a pediatric infectious disease consultant and a medical microbiologist. “This study will bring together information from hospitals across Canada, to more quickly identify patterns of experience that will help determine whether some of the things that they are seeing are related to vaccination. The faster our experts are able to react, the faster we will be able to find solutions.”
“Children and youth have made a lot of sacrifices to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” says Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam. “These studies on the effects of illness from COVID-19, and COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness will help us learn more about the best ways to protect younger Canadians and their families. Monitoring safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in this population will also contribute to optimal COVID-19 prevention and control, population wide.”
About the Canadian Immunization Monitoring Program ACTive (IMPACT)
The Canadian Immunization Monitoring Program ACTive (IMPACT) is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in collaboration with the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) to conduct hospital-based sentinel surveillance for vaccine-preventable diseases and select adverse events following immunization (AEFIs) leading to hospitalization at 12 pediatric tertiary care centres from Vancouver, BC to St John’s, NL which capture approximately 90 per cent of tertiary care pediatric beds in Canada and about 50 per cent of pediatric hospitalizations.
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 Research Immunization 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 leaders of NACI and CIRN. 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. For more information visit: https://www.covid19immunitytaskforce.ca/vaccine-surveillance-reference-group-vsrg/
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, 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: http://www.covid19immunitytaskforce.ca
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COVID-19 Immunity Task Force/Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group