COVID-19 RESPPONSE: Rapid Evidence Study of a Provincial Population Based Cohort for Gender and Sex

Written by: Alexandra Baaske

COVID-19 RESPPONSE (Rapid Evidence Study of a Provincial Population Based Cohort for Gender and Sex) is a research study being led by Co-Principal Investigators, Dr. Lori Brotto,[1] Executive Director, Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI) and Dr. Gina Ogilvie,[2] Associate Director, WHRI, in partnership with Dr. Manish Sadarangani at the Vaccine Evaluation Centre at British Columbia Children’s Hospital Research Institute and investigators from WHRI in Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C). The WHRI launched the study in the Summer of 2020, as part of the research response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemics are known to affect men and women differently. Evidence from previous pandemics indicates that women and other marginalized and vulnerable groups experience inequitable short- and long-term health, financial, and psychosocial outcomes. However, population-level data are often analyzed without proper attention to sex and gender, and there is a scarcity of data on how the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health measures intersect with sex and gender.

Moreover, when COVID-19 RESPPONSE began, the study of asymptomatic prevalence of COVID-19 was limited, with conflicting estimates from different international geographies and populations. Importantly, there had been no research on the asymptomatic population prevalence of COVID-19 in Canada. To guide pandemic management, Canada and British Columbia urgently require real-time, comprehensive, population-level data on COVID-19, particularly on past and asymptomatic infections anchored through a sex and gender lens.

To address these knowledge gaps, the primary objectives of the RESPPONSE study are:

  1. To establish the population prevalence of COVID-19 in B.C.
  2. To understand how COVID-19 and associated public health measures have affected people in B.C. through a sex and gender lens.

To date, the COVID-19 RESPPONSE study has recruited over 6,300 residents of B.C. of all genders, between the ages of 25 to 69 years old. The survey portion of the study captures COVID-19 symptoms, demographic characteristics, attitudes towards vaccines, and psychosocial, economic, and reproductive health outcomes of B.C. residents. Participants are also invited to complete an at-home test for COVID-19 antibodies by self-collection of dried blood spots.

Although the study is still ongoing, it has already gained provincial recognition. On December 9, 2020, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C. Provincial Health Officer, recognized the RESPPONSE study at a press conference delivered alongside John Horgan, B.C. Premier; Adrian Dix, Minister of Health; and Dr. Ross Brown, Vancouver Coastal Health’s Vice-President for Pandemic Response and Director of Regional Emergency Operations Center.[3] Dr. Gina Ogilvie, study Co-Principal Investigator, also discussed the investigation and what it means for British Columbia’s vaccine roll-out on CBC News, The Early Edition.[4] As well, Dr. Lori Brotto and Dr. Gina Ogilvie presented preliminary data to both the Ministry of Health and the Federal House of Commons, Health Committee in November, 2020.

COVID-19 RESPPONSE is uniquely positioned to provide real-time, comprehensive, population-level data on COVID-19. It will generate one of the first Canadian estimates of COVID-19 infection for general and priority populations, which will guide strategies to control the pandemic and prevent high burdens of illness among vulnerable groups. Further, it will identify sub-populations requiring additional supports during and after COVID-19.

Results from the study will inform evidence-based policies grounded in Sex- and Gender-Based Analysis (SGBA), and mitigate the impact of future pandemic management on existing inequalities in British Columbia and Canada.

The COVID-19 RESPPONSE Study is currently open to citizens of British Columbia aged 25-39 years old,*[5] and can be accessed on the study website at: https://whri.org/covid-19-respponse-study/.


[1] Dr. Lori Brotto, PhD, Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of British Columbia

[2] Dr. Gina Ogilvie, MD, Professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch4UMA3xo0s ~1:01:00

[4] https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-91/clip/15814046

[5] *Age inclusion criteria subject to change.

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