DLSPH Researchers Study COVID Transmission Among Paramedics
Paramedics are at high risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but details of what puts them most at risk of exposure have not yet been studied until now.
Two researchers at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health are working on the cross-country study, run by the federal government’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, which examines risk factors associated with COVID-19 amongst paramedics. Approximately $2 million has been provided for this study that will also examine infection rates and immunity measures, including paramedics who have already been vaccinated.
“This group of essential workers is instrumental to getting Canadians through this pandemic,” says Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam. “The more we can reduce infection among paramedics, the better the emergency response of our healthcare system will be. In addition, this study will give us valuable information about the duration of immunity.”
“We actually know very little about the risks of contracting COVID-19 associated with the different tasks paramedics must perform in the course of their duties,” says Catherine Hankins, MD, PhD, CITF Co-Chair. “Paramedics treat people who potentially have SARS-CoV-2 infection, providing care in close proximity and transporting patients in confined spaces. They routinely provide emergency medical treatments which may put them at higher risk of exposure and infection, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for cardiac arrest.”
This new study is actively recruiting 5,000 paramedics in British Columbia and Ontario — home to 52 percent of Canada’s paramedics. Participants will be asked to complete surveys and give blood samples three times over a one-year time period. Antibodies will be measured, over time, even in those with no symptoms. This will help researchers to understand how long immunity lasts.
“The results will help identify factors and protocols that affect the risk of infection among paramedics and provide evidence to inform workplace health and safety guidelines aimed at protecting paramedics from becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2,” says co-Principle Investigator, Tracy Kirkham, an assistant professor in DLSPH’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Health.
Paramedics in BC and Ontario wanting to learn more information or participate in the study are invited to go to omc.ohri.ca/CORSIP/.
The study is supported by several different organizations in both provinces, including BC Children’s Hospital, the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences, BC Emergency Health Services, Paramedic Association of Canada, Ambulance Paramedics of BC, Public Service Health and Safety Association, and unions representing Ontario paramedics.