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Comprehensive UM study on COVID-19 patterns in MB identifies most vulnerable

October 13, 2021 — 

A new research study out of the University of Manitoba has found that those who live in Northern Manitoba, have lower income or live in long-term care (LTC) facilities are the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The study Patterns and descriptors of COVID-19 testing and lab-confirmed COVID-19 incidence in Manitoba, Canada, March 2020-May 2021: A population-based study was published in The Lancet Regional Health – Americas, an open access journal, part of the family of The Lancet journals.

“This is, to our knowledge, the first comprehensive report on risk factors for COVID-19 in Manitoba. Our results include testing, incidence and positivity rates for specific population groups in Manitoba and the relative risk of these groups being affected by COVID and its severe outcomes,” said lead author Dr. Christiaan Righolt, a researcher at the Vaccine and Drug Evaluation Centre, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

The population-based study used data from all lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in Manitoba from March 2020 to May 2021. All the data came from clinical and administrative registries and database of Manitoba Health (MH), including the MH Population Registry housed at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. 

The findings of this study are consistent with similar studies from the U.S. that have concluded low income and racialized populations are at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19. The study shows that secondary cases and super spreading is more common in these populations as well.

Although the study found the severity of a lab confirmed COVID-19 infection in children was low, they did have a high risk of asymptomatic positivity. This means young children are more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of the disease.

Christiaan Righolt

 “We hope that these findings can inform the public health response to COVID-19, and that they can help decision makers assess their local risks of COVID-19,” said Righolt.

The research team at the Vaccine and Drug Evaluation Centre in the Max Rady College of Medicine is now working with other provinces to combine data for future studies, to evaluate the protection offered by different vaccines and to look at data for people who become infected with COVID-19 after vaccination.

“Going forward in this pandemic there is still lots of work left to do in evaluating vaccine effectiveness. Part of being able to evaluate that is understanding testing and incidence patterns, this paper does that for Manitoba. It paints a comprehensive view of who is tested and who is diagnosed with the disease,” said Righolt.

The senior author and principal investigator for the study is Dr. Salaheddin M. Mahmud, professor of community health sciences and pharmacy, Max Rady College of Medicine, University of Manitoba.  Dr. Mahmud is a Canada Research Chair in pharmaco-epidemiology and vaccine evaluation.

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