Long COVID Web pan-Canadian network to lead critical research on post COVID-19 conditions; Cochrane Canada and GRADE centers at McMaster University to develop and disseminate guidelines over a three-year period
March 9, 2023 | Ottawa, Ont. | 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 daily 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 Honorable 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 centers 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 centers 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.