Government of Canada invests new funding for post COVID-19 condition, in line with recommendations from the Chief Science Advisor’s report
Long COVID Web pan-Canadian network to lead critical research on post COVID-19 condition; Cochrane Canada and GRADE centres at McMaster University to develop and disseminate guidelines over a three-year period
March 9, 2023 | Ottawa, Ontario | Public Health Agency of Canada
The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on the health and wellbeing of people in Canada, not only through its direct effects but also through its indirect effects, including disruptions to health services and our everyday routines. The physical and psychological effects of a COVID-19 infection can be long-lasting, as some individuals experience new, persistent, or recurring symptoms for weeks or months after their acute infection. These prolonged symptoms are commonly referred to as post COVID-19 condition (PCC), or long COVID.
While scientific knowledge of PCC is growing, much is still unknown. This is why today, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, announced a $20 million investment from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to support a pan-Canadian Post COVID-19 Condition Research Network called Long COVID Web, and a $9 million investment from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to Cochrane Canada and GRADE centres at McMaster University to develop clinical practice guidelines on PCC.
The Long COVID Web research network will be led by Dr. Angela Cheung, a clinician and researcher at University Health Network and the University of Toronto. Together with her co-leads, Dr. Simon Décary at Université de Sherbrooke, Dr. Adeera Levin at the University of British Columbia, and Dr. Piush Mandhane at the University of Alberta, Dr. Cheung will work with more than 300 researchers, clinicians, people with lived experience of COVID-19, partners and representatives from Indigenous communities across the country to develop accurate diagnostics, treatments, and rehabilitation strategies for PCC. This work will deliver real and lasting improvements in the lives of those with PCC through evidence-based and standardized clinical practices that will reduce the socioeconomic impact of this disability.
Cochrane Canada and GRADE centres at McMaster University will develop, disseminate, and evaluate six evidence-based health guidelines on PCC that will focus on the Canadian context. These guidelines, to be published early in 2024, aim to cover PCC identification and prevention, assessment, management, follow-up, and monitoring of people with PCC. A focus of these evidence-based guidelines will be on developing easy to use tools to bring evidence to practice with special attention on equity deserving populations. The team will be led by Dr. Holger Schünemann, a clinician and researcher, with his co-lead Dr. Robby Nieuwlaat and a team of experts in the field at McMaster University.
Our government is thereby already delivering on recommendations from the Task Force on PCC. The full report from the Task Force, also released today, provides recommendations that take into account existing scientific literature, published evidence, experience of health care providers and the perspectives of people with lived experience. The Government of Canada is reviewing the Task Force’s recommendations, which will be critical to informing future actions in responding to PCC. The clinical practice guidelines will also be shared with key stakeholders and can support policies at different levels including within provincial and territorial governments.
Early evidence suggests that vaccination with two or more doses prior to COVID-19 infection may help reduce the risk of developing PCC. Currently, the best way to prevent PCC is to take measures to avoid getting infected, including getting vaccinated (including boosters) and continuing with personal protective practices.
“For some, the effects of COVID-19 are not something that lasts a few days. They may stay long after the initial illness, making day-to-day life difficult. Today’s announcement of the Long COVID Web research network offers hope—and real solutions to come for those living with post COVID-19 condition. Additionally, the development of new clinical practice guidelines will help to support health care workers and individuals across Canada in preventing, managing, and recovering from post COVID-19 condition, leading to even better health outcomes.”
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
“Canada’s researchers have been at the forefront of COVID-19 science from the very beginning of the pandemic. The Long COVID Web research network is a pivotal step on the path to clearly defining and managing post COVID-19 condition in Canada. Dr. Cheung and her team will harness the exceptional capacity that has been created for COVID-19 research in this country to develop diagnostic tools for health professionals and effective treatments for Canadians living with this condition.”
Dr. Michael J. Strong
President, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
“Canada’s science community is well positioned to provide the government with the evidence and the expertise needed to address post COVID-19 condition. Thanks to the experts who contributed to our Task Force recommendations, we now have a roadmap, a network and the support of government to take steps toward fully understanding this disease and helping to mitigate its effects on people and our society.”
Dr. Mona Nemer
Canada’s Chief Science Advisor
“I have seen the devastation to peoples’ lives that this virus can bring and am very thankful that the Government of Canada is investing in research to fully understand and treat post COVID-19 condition. As a Network, we will enable Canadian clinicians, researchers and educators to fully understand and recommend treatment options for people who live each day with the effects of post COVID-19 condition. What we will learn here will also help those who live with other post-infectious disease syndromes.”
Dr. Angela Cheung
University Health Network and University of Toronto
“Post COVID-19 condition require high quality research to better understand and manage the problems that affected people face. This new research together with what is already known must be synthesized and provided to decision-makers, including the public, in ways that improves lives. At Cochrane Canada and the McMaster GRADE Centre, in collaboration with partners and the public, we are privileged to play a leading role in producing and implementing health guidelines based on the best available approaches to address post COVID-19 condition.”
Dr. Holger Schünemann
Director, Cochrane Canada and McMaster GRADE Centre
Information on post COVID-19 condition (PCC) is available on Canada.ca, including general information for Canadians, information for Health Professionals, and information on the associations and safety of COVID-19 vaccination and PCC. The online resources, provided by PHAC are updated regularly as new evidence becomes available.
To support research into COVID-19, the CIHR has invested $394.3 million, to which partner organizations have added $20.5 million, for a total investment of $414.8 million in 965 research projects since March 2020, of which $17.7 million was for targeted research studies on PCC.
In mid-October, PHAC published results focused on post COVID-19 condition from Statistics Canada’s second provisional release of the second cycle of the Canadian COVID-19 Antibody and Health Survey (CCAHS) focused on post COVID-19 condition. The CCAHS Cycle 2 is a nationally representative survey of adults Canadians undertaken by Statistics Canada on behalf of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force and PHAC. Results from PHAC’s publication revealed that:
- 14.8% of adults with a confirmed or suspected infection, experienced longer-term COVID-19 symptoms,
- 47.3% of adults that experienced longer-term COVID-19 symptoms, experienced symptoms for a year or longer,
- 21.3% of adults that experienced longer-term COVID-19 symptoms, said that their symptoms often or always limited their daily activities.
The Government of Canada is reviewing Dr. Nemer’s Task Force recommendations, which will be critical in informing future action in responding to PCC. In December 2022, the Post COVID-19 Condition Secretariat was established within PHAC to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to respond to the recommendations and address evidence and data gaps around the condition.
Additional efforts to better understand PCC in children and youth are also underway. PHAC is working with paediatricians across the country through the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program, which, in August 2022, launched a two-year surveillance study on PCC. Data from this study will offer insights into the characteristics of the paediatric population living with this emerging condition, and eventually, approaches for its management.
The Government of Canada will continue to work with the provinces, territories and other partners in Canada and around the world to monitor current and emerging national and international evidence on PCC.
- Task Force on Post COVID-19 Condition Report
- Long COVID Web
- Post COVID-19 condition (long COVID)
- COVID-19 for health professionals: Post COVID-19 condition (long COVID)
- COVID-19 Summary of Vaccination and Post COVID-19 Condition
- Self-reported COVID-19 test results in Canada, January 2020 to March 2022
- Centre for Research on Pandemic Preparedness and Health Emergencies (CIHR)
- Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program – Post COVID-19 Condition (2022-2024)
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Office of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
Public Health Agency of Canada
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
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