Updates from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
CIHR, with support from the Government of Canada, continues to rapidly respond to emerging research priorities to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent efforts have focused on areas of research which have become increasingly critical as the pandemic has evolved.
With vaccines as a focal point of Canada’s strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, greater emphasis has been placed on the importance of promoting vaccine confidence to achieve widespread vaccine acceptance. As such, CIHR, in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), launched the Encouraging vaccine confidence in Canada ($2.24M) initiative to help support to support activities that promote vaccine confidence in Canada, especially among populations that are hesitant about vaccines.
Emerging variants of concern continue to be an area of high priority globally. To better understand and respond to the emergence of these SARS-CoV-2 variants, CIHR recently funded the Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network: CoVaRR-Net ($9M). The Network will act as an integrated platform to answer critical research questions regarding threats posed by emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants and work collaboratively with national and international bodies to help mitigate the impact of these variants on people in Canada and globally. In addition, approximately $5.4M of supplemental funding was provided to support previously funded researchers who were already researching SARS-CoV-2 variants or were able to rapidly incorporate the study of variants into their existing COVID-19 research.
As part of the Government of Canada’s continued strategy to rapidly address COVID-19 research gaps, CIHR launched another round of funding under the Emerging COVID-19 Research Gaps and Priorities initiative in March. For this competition, there was a focus on 6 specific research areas (variants, vaccines, confidence in science, post COVID-19 condition, testing models and surveillance, and long-term care) and 15 corresponding subtopics. Furthermore, additional emphasis was placed on generating evidence related one or more diverse populations, including but not limited to, health equity considerations, health status, sex and gender, a life cycle approach, and/or racialized or First Nations, Inuit, Metis and Urban Indigenous populations.
Recent attention has also shifted to understanding the long-term impacts of the virus, specifically as it relates to the post COVID-19 condition (also known as “Long COVID”). To better understand and address the implications of the post COVID-19 condition within the Canadian context, CIHR will be hosting a virtual knowledge mobilization forum on June 10, 2021. “Moving Forward Together: Recognizing the Lived Experience, Optimizing the Appropriate Rehabilitation of, and Enabling Research of the Post COVID-19 Condition in Canada” will bring together researchers, healthcare professionals, people with lived/living experience and policy and decision makers to discuss the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and identify research gaps related to the post COVID-19 condition.