Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam holds a press conference on Parliament Hill amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada buying 140,000 blood tests to begin immunity testing of COVID-19

The test will help determine who has already had COVID-19, even if they never tested positive

Blood samples collected from tens of thousands of Canadians will soon be tested for signs of COVID-19 antibodies as the federal government seeks to learn how many people have already contracted the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said she is excited about the partnership between the national immunity task force and Canada’s blood agencies, Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec. Tam is a member of the task force.

The two organizations have already collected “tens of thousands” of blood samples from Canadians that will be used for the initial immunity testing across the country. All they are waiting for is the arrival of the testing kits, which are now on their way.

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Wednesday a contract is now in place to buy 140,000 serology test kits from Abbott Laboratories. Health Canada approved Abbott’s serology test on May 21, but it took several weeks for the procurement process to work its way out.

“These kits will play an important role in tracking how widely the virus has spread,” Anand said.

The tests, which look for antibodies created by the human body after exposure to a virus, will help determine who has had COVID-19, which populations are most vulnerable to new outbreaks, whether having it makes someone immune to further illness, and how long that immunity might last.

READ MORE: Top doctor urges caution as B.C. records 19 new COVID-19 cases

Knowing those things will guide governments in deciding what public health measures to enforce if, or when, a second wave of COVID-19 begins to arrive in Canada. It can also help guide decisions on who to vaccinate first if a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

A study published last month in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology found Abbott’s test had only one false positive in more than 1,000 specimens tested, and that it was able to detect the presence of the COVID-19 antibody 17 days after symptoms began.

The immunity task force was established by the federal government in late April to co-ordinate national efforts on immunity detection.

Because some people get COVID-19 but show no symptoms, and because widespread testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 did not become the norm in most provinces until just recently, public health experts acknowledge the number of people who have actually been infected exceeds the number of cases reported.

As of Wednesday more than 99,400 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the end of January but the immunity task force is charged with working with the provinces to figure out how many cases went undetected.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the partnership with the two blood collection agencies provides a great number of samples for the initial survey.

The task force is also working with Indigenous leaders to identify a specific approach to immunity testing in Indigenous communities, said Hajdu. She said the government will provide an update on the work of the task force soon.

Anand also provided a brief update on overall efforts to bring in personal protective equipment in Canada, saying the 70th air cargo shipment of masks, gowns and other devices will land in Canada Wednesday. She said the government is also now turning to container ships to bring in the materials.

Four ships have already docked at the Port of Vancouver, bringing in 500,000 litres of hand sanitizer, and more ships will be arriving over the summer, said Anand.

Canada has now secured and distributed 3.1 million N95 respirators to provinces for use by front-line health staff. There have also been 17 million face shields made, most of them in Canada by companies that retooled their production lines to help meet the needs of the pandemic.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Witset in lockdown following three confirmed COVID-19 cases

Band office, health centre and KWES facilities closed until further notice

Meet the 10-year-old girl who grew a pineapple in northern B.C.

Emily Atkins discovers it takes a lot of patience to grow tropical fruit in a temperate climate

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Single-engine aircraft crashes near Telkwa

Two occupants of the plane sustained minor injuries and were transported to hospital

UPDATE: Search continues for Thomas (Tommy) Dennis missing from near Kitwanga

Tommy Dennis was last seen Sept 16 wearing blue jeans, black cap, rubber boots, grey checked sweater

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Most Read