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

Fire Chief delivers update to Kimberley City Council

Somewhat of an odd year with pandemic, Prasad says

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

Conservative opposition critic tours through Kootenay riding on listening tour

Pierre Poilievre, the Tory finance critic, gathering local feedback on pandemic supports, recovery issues

Financial update on Bootleg Gap presented to Kimberley Council

The course was only able to open fully on July 17

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

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

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Thousands of child care spaces coming to 35 B.C. communities

Province announces milestone in Childcare BC plan

Most Read