Recently, a local family received a Canadian COVID-19 Antibody and Health Survey kit. There was a little concern as to the purpose of this kit, the exportation of the DNA and what the results will be used for.
An information booklet is included with these kits, but the family still had some questions.
Statistics Canada, which was the government agency sending out the kits, was contacted and the Medical Relations Officer was quite helpful and forthcoming with answering a few questions.
Statistics Canada wanted the public to know this survey was random and no citizen was targeted. The survey is not mandatory, nor is it age discriminatory. The intent of the survey is to do antibody testing on a blood sample.
In general, when a DNA sample is collected and kept for surveys, people have questions ranging from what, why, and where.
What will happen to the DNA samples, where will they get stored and why was my family member the one who received the kit?
When asked what lab will the blood test be sent to, Statistics Canada Media Relations replied, ”The dried blood spot cards are sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg for storage. The samples will then be sent to private labs as soon as the appropriate contracts are in place.”
The next concern was what would be done with these samples once stored in Winnipeg and who has the ability to access them.
“If participants consent to have their sample stored, the remaining dried blood spot sample after analysis will be stored in Statistics Canada’s biobank at NML and available for future health research. Note that researchers interested in this will have to submit a research proposal that needs to be approved by Statistics Canada to have access to the stored sample. The samples will be destroyed after analysis for participants who did not consent to have it stored,” was the official reply.
How will the data be used? Who will use it?
Objective statistical information is vital to researchers, analysts and decision-makers across Canada. Results of the Canadian COVID-19 Antibody and Health Survey could be used by:
Parliament and other policymakers, to track major initiatives, set priorities for prevention and research programs, and evaluate policy and program outcomes epidemiologists, biomedical and health service researchers, to understand trends in diseases and the relationship of observed risk factors to diseases public health professionals, to track preventable illnesses and evaluate the impact of prevention and intervention programs advocacy groups, to raise awareness and assist in their surveillance of health issues and health disparities.
Finally, Statistics Canada was asked, if they find antibodies, would the survey recipient be contacted to let them know they have COVID-19 antibodies in their system.
“All survey participants returning a blood specimen will receive their results in a letter from Statistics Canada after the test is complete,” was the reply from Statistics Canada Media Relations.
Statistics Canada has a web page dedicated to the Canadian COVID-19 Antibody and Health Survey; https://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/survey/household/5339.
On this site, one can find out that there are two parts to this survey, Part one, an online questionnaire that participants are invited to log in and participate in. Part 2 is an “at-home finger-prick blood test” that is returned to Statistics Canada. This survey has a collection period of November 2, 2020, to March 26 2021 and is voluntary for those who receive the invitation and test kit in the mail.
Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal