Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Canada’s immunity task force is turning its attention to the country’s youngest population groups in an effort to better understand the extent to which children, adolescents and young adults contribute to the spread of COVID-19, and to obtain a more detailed profile of how the disease varies across the age spectrum.

On Tuesday, the federal-appointed task force announced it was supporting a new study led by the BC Children’s Hospital that will test thousands of individuals between newborn and 24 years old to determine how many have already had the coronavirus, even if unaware of it. Three other studies of children that are already up and running across the country will also receive support from the task force.

The studies resemble others across Canada that screen large numbers of individuals for antibodies that are formed by the body’s immune system in response to the coronavirus. The difference is that, up till now, most of those studies have not included children. The result will offer another clue to how COVID-19 is moving through the population and could inform strategies for vaccine deployment next year.

Story continues below advertisement

“We really have to understand children in terms of their susceptibility to infection, but also their role in transmission of infection in households,” said Tim Evans, who leads McGill University’s School of Population and Global Health and is executive director of the task force.

The British Columbia project, dubbed the SPRING study, is aiming to build up a sweeping portrait of the coronavirus pandemic among young people in the province and track its movement through time. Parents who wish to enrol their children in the study will be asked to fill out an online questionnaire and provide blood spots on paper using a finger prick test kit. Such tests do not reveal active cases of coronavirus but instead are used to reveal who has already had COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

The study is aimed at addressing some of the lingering mysteries around the coronavirus in children, including whether children are less likely to become infected or whether their infection rates are similar to adults but with fewer symptoms. Other studies have provided conflicting evidence around this question, which has made it hard to predict what kind of transmission rates to expect in schools and other settings where children are interacting with each other and with adults.

Study leader Manish Sadarangani, who is director of the hospital’s vaccine evaluation centre, said that comparatively low case numbers of COVID-19 among children do not mean that children will not be an important consideration during a vaccine rollout.

“When the first wave of vaccines are available… clearly kids are not going to be a high priority for vaccination,” he said. “But I think moving further down the line we know, from influenza, that vaccinating children is really important because it breaks transmission to the elderly.”

Dr. Sadarangani added that when he and his colleagues began planning the study they initially intended to look only at children, but they expanded their focus to include young adults in order to capture how much COVID-19 has penetrated into an age group that was one of the first to see a rise in case counts starting in late summer.

“We’re planning to recruit equally at different ages,” from preschool to university age, Dr. Sadarangani said. The study will also sample from across the regions of the province and include a diverse and representative range of participants.

Story continues below advertisement

If the study manages to recruit widely enough, the results could improve computer models that try to predict the future trajectory of the pandemic, particularly in settings where children make up a significant share of the population. The key is to have a better handle on transmission rates among children.

“If we can compare that to adults then we’ll have some information about how COVID is spreading in schools,” said Caroline Colijn, a mathematician and disease modeller at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., who is not involved with the Children’s Hospital study.

The SPRING study ultimately aims to include 16,000 participants, but Dr. Sadarangani the immediate goal is to recruit the first 2,500, divided evenly between five sub-groups according to age, and to follow those groups through time as the pandemic ebbs and flows. So far 300 have signed on since recruiting began two weeks ago.

The study has received $1.3-million in support from the Immunity Task Force. Funding has also been allocated to studies tracking COVID-19 in children and teens in Montreal (EnCORE study) and two cohort studies led by researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton (CHILD study) and Toronto SickKids Hospital (TARGet Kids.)

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you manage your health, your finances and your family life as Canada reopens.
Visit the hub
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies