Non-peer-reviewed data from the CITF-funded COVENANT Study, exploring the impact of SARS-CoV-2 among populations experiencing homelessness in Toronto, found the majority of participants (80%) reported being vaccinated by September 2021, with 79% of them having two doses. 14% were hesitant to be vaccinated. The results were given by study lead Dr. Stephen Hwang, from the University of Toronto and Unity Health, as part of the CanCOVID Speaker Series.

The COVENANT Study aims to determine seroprevalence within Toronto’s population experiencing homelessness and identify risk and protective factors for COVID-19 within this vulnerable community.  In turn, these data will feed into models to forecast the pandemic trajectory, which will help to inform public health policy as well as appropriate housing interventions to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

Baseline recruitment for the study took place June 16 – September 9, 2021 at 61 shelter sites across Toronto. Follow-up was conducted at 3 months, and the team is currently interviewing participants as part of a 6-month follow-up, with additional data to be collected at 9 and 12 months from baseline. The 3-month follow up included 552 interviews (75% of the original cohort). The 6-month data collection point began in December 2021 with 104 interviews completed so far.

Key points:

  • The average age of participants is 46 years, with 66.2% self-identifying as male. Roughly half of the population identified as white (48%), 22% identified as black and 20% identified as “other.”
  • The majority of participants (80%) reported being vaccinated at baseline, with 79% of them having two doses. 14% of the participants are considered vaccine hesitant.
  • At baseline, 644 (87%) participants self-reported having been tested for COVID-19.
  • 129 of the 644 (20%) participants who reported the results previously tested positive for COVID-19; however, serology results showed that 30.6% of participants showed signs of past infection.
  • Saliva-based PCR testing for current infection showed increasing incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, starting with 0.1% of the cohort testing positive in June – September, rising to 5.8% of the cohort starting in December (and ongoing).