Rapid research in the CHILD Cohort to inform Canada’s response to the COVID‑19 pandemic: investigating the prevalence and predictors of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and the health and psychosocial impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on Canadian families

Azad, Meghan | $2,099,745

Manitoba University of Manitoba 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

The COVID‑19 pandemic is affecting everyone. Millions of Canadians will be infected by the novel coronavirus, but only a few will develop severe COVID‑19 disease. Others will have mild symptoms, or none at all. We don’t know why some infected people get very sick and others do not, and we don’t know the true rate of infection in the population. Social distancing policies and school and business closures have helped slow the spread of COVID-19, but we don’t know how they will affect mental health and wellbeing (especially in children) in the long term. These are urgent questions that must be answered quickly to control outbreaks and minimize the unintended consequences of pandemic management policies. We will study the direct effects of coronavirus infection and the indirect effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic in the existing CHILD Cohort Study. CHILD involves 3500 families in BC, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario who have been followed since before their children were born in 2008-2010. Most recently, children provided detailed health data and blood samples in 2018-2020 (just before the pandemic), providing a unique opportunity to study how children’s pre-pandemic health and immune status influences the risk and outcome of coronavirus infection. We will now ask all CHILD family members to report COVID‑19 symptoms using a text messaging system, and provide a few drops of blood for COVID‑19 antibody testing using a simple at-home collection kit. Families will also complete surveys about their physical and mental health, behaviours and emotions during the pandemic. This study will help us understand how Canadian families are being affected – both directly through infection and indirectly through pandemic management policies. Our research will provide important real-time data to Public Health authorities about coronavirus infection, symptoms, transmission and immunity in 12,000 Canadians in 4 provinces (CHILD children, siblings, parents) to inform Canada’s COVID‑19 response.

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