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, will report to the President of PHAC and has been 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.

CITF Leadership Group members Caroline Quach Thanh (NACI) and Scott Halperin (CIRN) are co-Chairing the VSRG. Its membership includes CITF Co-Chairs Catherine Hankins and David Naylor, Executive Director Tim Evans, Leadership Group member Mel Krajden from the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), Shelley Deeks, co-Chair of NACI and named Chief Health Protection Officer of Nova Scotia, and ex-officio members Evan Adams, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC); Kim Elmslie, PHAC; and Kelly Robinson, Health Canada. The VSRG will oversee two Working Groups: one on Vaccine Safety, chaired by Karina Top, CIRN; and the other on Vaccine Effectiveness, chaired by Jeff Kwong, Public Health Ontario (PHO). 

The VSRG will review proposals for vaccine safety/effectiveness studies emerging from the two Working Groups. The CITF’s Executive Committee (EC) will function as an arm’s-length audit/finance committee to ensure that due diligence has been done when the VSRG draws on public funds, as they come from the CITF’s budget. The CITF EC will then recommend studies for approval by PHAC for financing.