Study underway in Montreal to estimate how many children and teens have been infected with SARS-CoV-2

Today, Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) announces its support for a research project that will estimate how many children and teens in Montreal have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This $720,000 investment will allow us to better understand how much virus transmission has occurred to children and teens, and will help inform decision-making around prevention strategies in neighbourhoods, schools, and daycares. This study is the first to be announced in a series of child- and teen-focused studies funded by the Task Force.

The EnCORE research project will study 2- to 17-year-olds in daycares, elementary schools, and high schools that have been randomly selected in four Montreal neighbourhoods (Beaconsfield, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Montreal-North, and the Plateau). All parents and legal guardians with children attending the selected schools and daycares are invited to have their children participate in the study.

As Quebec and Canada deal with a second wave of COVID-19, the prospect of having to close schools remains on peoples’ minds. Canadian surveys have found that there have been detrimental impacts of confinement on children, affecting their emotional, behavioural, and psychological well-being. Through the questionnaire portion of this study, this research will estimate the prevalence of emotional and mental health difficulties among children in different neighbourhoods of Montreal.

“It is extremely important to know how many children have been infected with SARS-CoV-2,” explains project lead Kate Zinszer, Assistant Professor at l’École de santé publique, Université de Montréal, and researcher at the Centre for Public Health Research. “We know children are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and can transmit the infection, but much uncertainty remains. This study will give us a good idea of how many children on the island have previously had COVID-19, which can help inform public health measures.”

“The study will compare the seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in children within different neighbourhoods of Montreal, one of the hardest-hit areas of the country,” says CITF Co-Chair Catherine Hankins. “In addition to assessing how far SARS-CoV-2 has spread among children, this study will provide valuable insights into how children have been affected by responses to COVID-19. This knowledge can inform policy and programming locally, nationally, and internationally.”

“The findings of this study will help us make decisions on interventions such as school closures and physical distancing as efforts focus on the balance between the direct health impacts of COVID-19 and the unintended consequences of confinement measures,” states Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal Regional Director of Public Health.

“In order to fight the pandemic effectively and protect families, we must understand how different socio-economic backgrounds, population densities and other factors affect the risk of infection and the transmission COVID-19 in children and teens,” says Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. “This study in Montreal will help inform decision-making to prevent COVID-19 infection in children and teenagers.”

Children and teenagers attending the study’s schools and daycares are encouraged to participate in this important study. Participation requires a consent form, an online questionnaire, and a home finger prick test. Researchers will inform parents if their child does have antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, although that still does not guarantee immunity against the virus that causes COVID-19. To participate in the study or see if your child’s school or daycare is participating, please visit the EnCORE website: encorestudy.ca.

ABOUT THE COVID-19 IMMUNITY TASK FORCE 

The Government of Canada launched the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) in late April 2020 to track the spread of the virus in both the general population and priority populations in Canada. The Task Force also aims to shed light on immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 in a diversity of communities, age brackets, populations and occupational groups across the nation. To generate this information, the Task Force is drawing on experts from universities and hospitals across Canada, working closely with provincial and territorial public health officials, and engaging communities/stakeholders from inception through to dissemination of findings. For more information visit: www.covid19immunitytaskforce.ca

MEDIA CONTACTS

COVID-19 Immunity Task Force
Caroline Phaneuf/Rebecca Burns
media@covid19immunitytaskforce.ca

Caroline cell: +1-514-778-5092