New study identifies who's most vulnerable to COVID-19 in Manitoba

A new study has determined that people who live in Northern Manitoba, those who have a lower income, or people who live in long-term care facilities are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 in Manitoba.

The University of Manitoba study titled ‘Patterns and descriptors of COVID-19 testing and lab-confirmed COVID-19 incidence in Manitoba, Canada, March 2020-May 2021: A population-based study, used data from every lab-confirmed COVID-19 case in the province between March 2020 and May 2021.

Dr. Christiaan Righolt, lead author of the study and researcher at the Rady Faculty of Health Science’s Vaccine and Drug Evaluation Centre, said this is the first comprehensive report on COVID-19 risk factors 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,” Righolt said in a news release.

Other findings include that the severity of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in children was low, but that they did have a high risk of asymptomatic positivity, meaning kids are more likely to be asymptomatic carriers.

The study also found that secondary cases and super spreading was more common in the populations vulnerable to COVID-19, such as those with lower incomes.

“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,” Righolt said.

The research team involved in the study is now collaborating with other provinces to combine their data, evaluate the protection of different vaccines, and look into data for people who were infected with COVID-19 after their vaccination.

All the data for the study came from clinical and administrative registries as well as a Manitoba Health database.

“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,” Righolt said.

“It paints a comprehensive view of who is tested and who is diagnosed with the disease.”

The university notes the study’s findings are consistent with research out of the U.S., which determined that low income and racialized populations are most at-risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19.