A number of UBC rapid response research initiatives have received funding from a partnership between Genome BC, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and the BCCDC Foundation for Public Health.
The projects will have a direct impact— in a matter of months—on people in British Columbia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Valued at approximately $1.3 million, a total of nine new projects have been selected for funding, covering a range of priority research areas, including:
- vaccine breakthrough infections;
- vaccine effectiveness in the context of variants of concern and immune response;
- equitable distribution of vaccines;
- vaccine acceptance and attitudes towards vaccines; and,
- vaccine literacy and hesitancy among people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who are incarcerated, people who work in long-term care homes and a variety of multicultural communities in the Lower Mainland.
The projects are being led by researchers at UBC, UBC Okanagan, BC Centre for Disease Control, BC Children’s Hospital Institute, Simon Fraser University, and University of Victoria.
The supported projects represent a mix of laboratory-based and social dynamics studies, offering critical insights to urgent issues, while supporting near-term targeted public health responses, and helping to ensure access to and confidence in vaccination programs for everyone in B.C.
“We commend and congratulate Genome BC, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and the BCCDC Foundation for Public Health for bringing together teams of experts across B.C. to address ongoing research aspects of COVID vaccination that are important to the entire population of BC, and worldwide,” said Dr. Robert McMaster, Vice-Dean, Research, UBC Faculty of Medicine.
“We commend and congratulate Genome BC, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and the BCCDC Foundation for Public Health for bringing together teams of experts across B.C. to address ongoing research aspects of COVID vaccination that are important to the entire population of BC, and worldwide.”
Dr. Rob McMaster
Strategic partners on this initiative also include the BC Academic Health Science Network (BC AHSN) and Population Data BC. BC AHSN, through the BC SUPPORT Unit, has partnered on the call by providing support to public engagement reviewers to participate in the review process. In addition, the Unit will provide consultation, training and support to those who are interested in engaging patients and families, public and/or community members as partners on their research teams. Population Data BC is offering guidance and advice to the funded researchers on data access and linkage, and continuing in its efforts to make the data access process as simple and straightforward as possible for the research community.
UBC Faculty of Medicine-led project summaries
Advancing COVID‐19 vaccines in BC Prisons
Sofia Bartlett, department of pathology and laboratory medicine
A previous COVID-19 study in BC Provincial Correctional Centres in January 2021 identified that COVID-19 vaccine acceptance among people who are incarcerated (PWAI) was low, with only 59% (181/308) of PWAI surveyed indicating they would accept a COVID-19 vaccine if offered. To increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence among PWAI, the team will undertake a community-based study including PWAI in the research design process and as peer educators. Quantitative surveys will be developed with PWAI, then deployed to determine current vaccine literacy levels and concerns about COVID-19 vaccines among PWAI. Using this data, educational resources will be co-developed with PWAI, and peer-educator training provided to PWAI.
COVID-19 South Asian Community Response Study
Julie Bettinger, department of pediatrics
Statistics Canada estimates South Asians are 50-60% less likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine due to misinformation and fear of adverse events. Our study will identify the information needs, values, beliefs, and experiences related to COVID-19 vaccination among ethnically South Asian communities in the lower mainland of British Columbia and develop culturally appropriate communication interventions to promote COVID-19 vaccination.
VITAL: Vaccine Investigation of Transmission Analysis Longitudinally and Effectiveness
Catherine Hogan, UBC
This project will integrate data sources to investigate (1) the impact of SARS CoV-2 vaccination on viral load and subsequent infection transmission at a population level and (2) the characteristics of individuals who have post-vaccine breakthrough infections with and without Variants of Concern. The outcome of this work will be to understand the vaccination scenarios most likely to effectively halt transmission in BC, and to help plan and prioritize public health interventions.
COVID-19 SMILES – the study of vaccine escape mutants
Agatha Jassem, department of pathology and laboratory medicine
Vaccine escape mutants have the potential to undermine the effectiveness of the global vaccination campaign against SARS-CoV-2. The team will develop a surveillance program to detect and sequence viral variants emerging from vaccine breakthrough infections. These mutants will be tested experimentally to understand their responsiveness to vaccine-induced immunity, and modeling will be incorporated to project the impacts of vaccine escape mutants on transmission and pandemic progression in BC.
UBC Vaccine Effectiveness of Variants in British Columbia
Daniel Ting, department of emergency medicine
The Canadian COVID-19 Emergency Department Rapid Response Network (CCEDRRN) has harmonized data collection for COVID-19 tested patients across 50 emergency departments in 8 provinces, including BC. This new project will leverage CCEDRRN’s existing and growing registry infrastructure to determine the real-world effectiveness of vaccines in BC in reducing severe COVID-19, as documented by emergency admission. Research efforts will specifically focus on vaccine effectiveness against the P.1 Variant of Concern circulating in BC, and on effectiveness of a single dose to assess outcomes of Canada’s dose delay. This study will provide critical real-world data about vaccine performance and support key study sites in the Lower Mainland.