Researchers at UBC, BC Children’s Hospital, and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) are teaming up with the Vancouver School District to better understand COVID-19 transmission in Vancouver schools.
The study, funded by Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF), aims to determine how many teachers and support staff in Vancouver schools have acquired SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by checking their blood samples for antibodies. The study will also examine the risk of exposure to COVID-19 cases in schools and assess the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of teachers.
“Education and social interactions are essential for our youth to thrive, and to support their psychological and physical well-being,” says lead researcher Dr. Pascal Lavoie, associate professor in the department of pediatrics at UBC and an investigator at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute. “Our study will help inform policies that further safeguard our kids at schools and make for a more supportive environment for the entire school community.”
“Throughout my research I have worked closely with schools to study how a child’s environment can influence their health behaviours,” says co-lead researcher Dr. Louise C. Mâsse, professor in the school of population and public health at UBC and an investigator at BC Children’s. “I am thrilled to use this expertise to support schools in implementing additional safe practices in the midst of a pandemic while continuing to meet their educational mandate.”
This study will include Vancouver School District staff and students. The District enrolls around 50,000 students from kindergarten to grade 12 and has 3200 educators/teachers.
“The health and safety of students and staff remains the top priority of the Vancouver School District. The District is pleased to promote this important work and will support the efforts of the research team,” says Superintendent of Schools, Suzanne Hoffman.
“Vancouver Coastal Health has recorded low rates of transmission in schools since the start of the pandemic. While schools continue to be a safe environment for children and school staff, this study will add to growing and timely evidence on the impact of the pandemic on children and their health and wellbeing”, says Dr. Alex Choi, Medical Health Officer, VCH.
Viral testing in BC is currently done mostly in people with COVID-19 symptoms. To get a more complete picture of viral exposure, the research team will conduct additional targeted viral testing using non-invasive mouth rinse gargle samples, a first-in-Canada solution evaluated and implemented at BC Children’s Hospital working closely with Provincial Lab Medicine Services and the BC Centre for Disease Control.
To find out more, or if you are school personnel wishing to participate in the study you can go to bcchr.ca/COVIDatschools.
The research team is led by Dr. Lavoie and Dr. Mâsse, and also includes Dr. David Goldfarb, Dr. Vilte Barakauskas, Dr. Julie Bettinger, Dr Tim Oberlander, Dr. Mike Irvine and Dr. Manish Sadarangani from UBC and BC Children’s, as well as Dr. Daniel Coombs from UBC’s department of mathematics, Dr. Eva Oberle and Dr. Anne Gadderman from UBC’s school of population and public health, Agatha Jassem from BCCDC and Dr. Alex Choi, VCH.
This story was originally published by BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute.