Manitobans among 48K Canadians asked to test for COVID-19 antibodies
Test kits will direct people on supplying blood sample to National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg
COVID-19 antibody test kits are arriving in Manitoba mailboxes as part of a cross-country survey.
More than 3,600 Manitobans will be asked to prick their finger to find out if they have antibodies to the novel coronavirus as part of the survey by Canada's COVID-19 Immunity Task Force and Statistics Canada.
In total, 48,000 people across the country will be asked to take part, which requires them to return a blood sample to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg for testing. The sample for Manitoba is 3,634.
Test kits containing gloves, alcohol swabs, a device for pricking your finger, bandages and a return envelope are being sent out.
A mailed survey invitation letter is also included and provides detailed instructions on how to select one person within the household.
In order to get a good result, the task force and Statistics Canada is hoping for a minimum 45 per cent response rate from those who receive the kits, the first of which were sent out in November and are expected to continue through March.
Dr. Catherine Hankins, co-chair of the task force, said the pin-prick tests will tell if someone had COVID-19 — regardless of whether they are showing symptoms or not — and who may be immune.
Those who take part will eventually get a letter about their antibody status.
"We have no study that is truly representative of the whole country, and so this this gives kind of the framework for the puzzle," Hankins said. "It gives you the general population estimates for right across the country."
The results will also help create more effective public health guidelines, she said.
"It may hold some surprises — there may be higher rates in some areas than in others than were anticipated — and that may give some information for public health measures to be more focused, perhaps in some areas," Hankins said.
However, there will remain some gaps in the study.
It does not include some populations, including those living on First Nations reserves or Crown lands, Hankins said.
It also does not take into account those residing in institutions, full-time members of the Canadian Forces, residents of certain remote regions or children living in foster homes.
However, there are other surveys being conducted with Indigenous organizations and communities for on-reserve estimates, Hankins said.