MONTREAL (CityNews) – Many unknowns are up in the air surrounding COVID-19 and how it has affected school-aged children.
Canada’s immunity task force is launching a study in Montreal to find out just that by testing blood samples from students at schools in various Montreal neighbourhoods.
“The overall goal of the study is to look at the spread of coronavirus in schools to find out how many kids have been asymptomatic with no symptoms whatsoever but got infected,” explained Catherine Hankins, COVID-19 immunity task force co-chair.
The study is the first of its kind in Canada. Researchers are collecting samples from a list of randomly selected schools and daycares. Starting in the town of Beaconsfield, then moving on to the Plateau, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Montreal north.
They’re asking parents to send in their children’s blood samples using a home finger prick, to test for the presence of SARS-COV-2 antibodies, which indicate whether someone has had COVID-19.
“This provides another key component of information in terms of understanding the extent of transmission of the virus in children,” explained Kate Ziszer, Encore Study project lead.
Participants will also fill out a questionnaire to determine how the pandemic has affected their mental health.
“They’ve been deprived of their educational opportunities, they’ve been glued to screens more than we’d ever want them to be, so we need to see what the impact has been and see what has made them resilient. What are the things we can build on and what are things we can help them do better?” asked Hankins.
Researchers say the data will help guide decisions on COVID-19 intervention measures, like school closures.
The study is funded by a $72,000 COVID-19 immunity task force grant and is backed by federal and provincial health officials.
Parents at participating schools and daycares are encouraged to sign up for the Encore Study. Detailed instructions on how to administer the finger pricking can be found on the site, with the video even featuring project lead Kate Zinszer’s six-year-old son.