The GNWT will have blood samples from NWT residents analyzed for antibodies against the Covid-19 virus, the government announced Wednesday morning.
The blood samples will date back as far as April 1. The goal is to detect antibodies that developed from natural infection and immunization to the virus.
Blood donors’ names will be removed from the samples to protect identities. The only identifying characteristics remaining will be the donor’s age, the region where the sample was collected and the date.
Samples will be sent to Canadian Blood Services’ research laboratory to test for antibodies.
“Antibodies are proteins that the body produces to protect itself from infection. However, this study will be able to distinguish whether antibodies have developed due to previous infection or due to vaccination. Canadian Blood Services will not have access to any residents’ personal information,” the GNWT stated in a news release. “The GNWT takes the privacy of its residents seriously and wants to assure the public that all blood samples will remain anonymous. Under the Public Health Act, the GNWT has the jurisdiction to collect personal health information if the chief public health officer believes it is required for public health surveillance. The act also allows the GNWT to disclose health information that does not identify the individual to whom it relates. A legal and privacy review of this initiative has been completed.”
The NWT is no longer tracking individual Covid infections but still records Covid-19 cases that involve hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths. In addition, waste water is still being sampled in seven-day periods to check for high or increasing levels of Covid-19 in a community.
Between April 1, 2022, and August 31, 2022, there have been 43 total severe outcomes attributed to Covid-19 in the NWT — that entails 35 hospitalizations, four intensive care unit admissions
and four deaths, the GNWT stated.
“While there were over 10,000 reported cases of Covid-19 in the Northwest Territories before April 1, 2022, the true number of cases is much higher. This information (from blood samples) will help us understand the total population immunity and prepare for the impact of future waves of Covid-19,” said chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola.
The territorial government noted that various provinces have conducted similar surveys of blood samples. However, the NWT study, funded by the Covid-19 Immunity Task Force, is believed to be the first that will exclusively target a Northern territory, according to the GNWT.
This initiative is being undertaken by the chief public health officer in partnership with the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority, Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, and Tlicho Community Services Agency.
Results from the blood sample studies will be made available to the public, the GNWT committed.
As well, the territorial government announced that wastewater monitoring in the NWT has expanded to include influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).