It’s been almost one year since the first positive presumptive case of, what we called at the time, novel coronavirus.

Since, it’s amazing to realize how much we have learned, experienced, and witnessed—an immense amount of work has been undertaken in the past year to both protect people from COVID-19 and to learn about the virus (SARS-CoV-2) and it’s impacts.

With the incredible help of our donors, we have been able to fund and support a provincial pandemic response project that is helping our public health experts and leaders in BC create strategies, make decisions, and keep British Columbians safe.

And now, here we are, embarking on the largest immunization campaign in Canadian history.

COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-out

COVID-19 vaccine development has been unprecedented, with researchers working day and night to develop, test, seek approval for, manufacture, and now distribute vaccines across Canada. The timeline of this work has been incredible and has shifted the tide of the pandemic towards a brighter future.

While we all must continue to use all our layers of protection (handwashing, mask-wearing, physical distancing, etc.), the introduction of novel vaccines and roll-out plans, have offered us all hope in a dark time. However, this will take some time; it will be many months before everyone in BC is vaccinated.

We can, and must, learn during this time, and moving forward. It is imperative we gather evidence that will help us through the rest of this pandemic and vaccination program, and importantly to prepare for any future threats.

In other words, now is the time to invest in and learn more about this new phase of the global pandemic.

Why do we Need Vaccine Research?

The work that has been undertaken to bring vaccines to the people is not a question; however, understanding the effectiveness (how well a vaccine works in real-world conditions) and immunogenicity (the ability of an antigen (i.e., vaccine) to provoke an immune response in an individual) of the vaccines remains.

In addition, logistical challenges and vaccine hesitancy require research, and we must assure equitable distribution to priority populations, which requires new knowledge.

We have a lot to learn to keep people safe into the future, and it is critical, as we roll out the vaccine program that we undertake this work immediately and in real-time. Researchers and public health experts will gather invaluable information during this time, information that will be lost if we don’t act now.

This is not about questioning whether the COVID-19 vaccines are safe. Rigorous approvals are required before a vaccine is put into use and the available vaccines are safe and effective in phase 3 trials. However, they are of novel design and must be evaluated in real settings and populations, and this means asking key questions, such as:

  1. What is the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing illness and infection?
  2. What is the effectiveness of the vaccine in reducing transmission? 
  3. What is the immunogenicity of the vaccine?
  4. What concerns do British Columbians have about the vaccine?
  5. How do we deliver equitable access to vaccination?

Our Role

As a public health foundation, it was our responsibility in early 2020 to rapidly pivot our work to support COVID-19 response, and to ensure that evidence-based information is being shared.

It is now our duty to support the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out—a critical part of our efforts to address the pandemic.

While we remain committed to BC’s public health pandemic response, our partners have informed us that we’re facing an urgent need for vaccine-related research. This requires rapid-response funding that can allow us to learn from the vaccine roll-out, in real-time. 

What does this mean for the Foundation?

It means that for the near future, we’ll be incorporating vaccine research into our Emergency Response Fund.

Plus, we’re reaching out to our partners to combine our efforts, because by collaborating, we can leverage our collective strengths to support research better, and faster. When we work together, we accomplish so much more.

In other words, bringing philanthropy together with government and other partners means we are working collectively to leverage all our efforts and strengths to achieve an even greater impact. As our government and health authority partners are implementing the vaccination roll-out, it is our responsibility to support research.

However, supporting research in an ever-changing landscape is not easy. Working in real-time, with new information constantly coming at us, is not easy. But, during this pandemic it has remained critical to stay on top of the priorities, and it’s our call-to-action to go where we’re most needed—we’re facing a new landscape that we’re ready to tackle to help keep all British Columbians safe.

How You Can Help

As British Columbians, we have a unique opportunity to learn in real-time in a way like no other, and we have a responsibility to undertake this work. However, in order to move quickly, we need your help to support our public health leaders, experts, and researchers, now.

We’re with you—we’re all ready to celebrate the end of this pandemic. And with vaccines now being administered, we’re one colossal step closer.

We’re calling on you to come alongside us in this final push—please help us to ensure we don’t lose this opportunity to gain valuable evidence that will protect us now and long into the future.

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