Corona Immunitas Ticino: responding together - The second phase of the project is underway

Institutional Communication Service

2 September 2020

The Corona Immunitas Ticino project is carried out by the Institute of Public Health of Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) and the Department of Business Economics, Health and Social Sciences of SUPSI and it aims to assess the impact of the coronavirus, its spread and the development of immunity in the Ticino population. The first phase began in July 2020, when 1,300 people aged between 20 and 65 years joined the study and still continue to send their feedback online through weekly and monthly questionnaires on the evolution of the epidemic and how its impact is changing over time. More than half of these people have also given samples for serological testing, the results of which, processed by the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB, affiliated to USI) will be available soon. In the second part of the study, the focus will shift to children/adolescents between 5 and 19 years of age, and to adults over 65.

The Corona Immunitas Ticino project carries on. It is part of a national initiative called Corona Immunitas, led by the Swiss School of Public Health and supported by the Federal Office of Public Health, several cantons and numerous companies. Thanks to the joint effort of USI and SUPSI, 8,000 people living in Ticino, aged between 5 and 104 years and randomly selected by the Federal Statistical Office, are progressively invited to participate in the study. The aim of Corona Immunitas Ticino is to measure the social and economic impact of the epidemic on the mental and physical health of the population. Moreover, thanks to a cutting-edge data collection system, Corona Immunitas Ticino also allows to monitor monthly and weekly the trend of symptoms of COVID-19, the perception of risk, and behaviours to reduce the spread. Lastly, thanks to the collaboration with the Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale (EOC), the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) and the Applied Microbiology Laboratory of SUPSI, the first part of serological tests for the detection of antibodies against coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was completed in July 2020, involving more than 650 participants.

 

The participation of children and the over 65s

More than 1,000 adults have been actively participating in Corona Immunitas Ticino since July. From the beginning of September 2020, the study will expand and become more ambitious, with the involvement of children/adolescents and adults/the elderly. In conjunction with the reopening of schools, on Monday, 31 August, 2,000 letters were sent to the younger age group (age 5 - 19). From 7 September, another 2,000 letters will be sent to the over-65. Already in the next few days, thousands of children and elderly people will be able to monitor their health status and any symptoms of COVID-19 on a weekly and monthly basis and to follow more closely the evolution of the epidemic in the different age groups.

In order to capture the important inter-generational aspects of this epidemic, including the risks and ways of infection, and changes in the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, the 2,000 participants over 65 will be asked to invite in the project people under the age of 20 (e.g. grandchildren, neighbours or acquaintances) with whom they have had weekly contact in the past months. Vice versa, the 2,000 participants between the ages of 5 and 19 will be asked to invite people over the age of 65 with whom they have had weekly contact (e.g. grandparents, uncles or great-uncles). The involvement in the project is important not only for those who take part in it but also for the whole population of Ticino. Those who will receive the letter will be able to help and support the participants and be a part of the study if they wish, through invitation.

Serological tests will also be carried out at this stage, during the so-called phase III from the end of October 2020: this will include all of the children and the elderly of the focus group and a sample of those who will be invited to participate in the study for the analysis of the intergenerational aspects of the epidemic. It will thus be possible to know the changes in the spread of the infection two months after school started, and how business and ordinary activities were affected after the summer break and before the beginning of winter.

 

The importance of the participation of young and old

The second part of the study focuses on school-age children and the elderly, not only because they are two crucial groups to know and limit the impact of the epidemic, but also because the data available to date are not sufficient in our Canton, in the Confederation, and internationally. The success of this phase relies on the participation of such groups. For this reason, USI and SUPSI combine their expertise to meet the needs of those who will receive the invitation to take part in the study. Participants up to the age of 13 will fill in the questionnaires together with their parents, while teenagers will be able to fill them in online. People over 65 years of age, according to their different needs and personal preferences, will have the opportunity to answer the questionnaires through interviews, telephone or not, conducted by trained project staff.

 

The first phase of the study

Since 1 July 2020, 1,300 people between the ages of 20 and 65 have participated in the study, 1,060 of whom continue still continue to send their feedback online through weekly and monthly questionnaires on the evolution of the epidemic and how its impact is changing over time.  From 20 to 31 July 2020, 669 people took a blood sample at EOC Hospitals. On these samples, the Applied Microbiology Laboratory of SUPSI, in collaboration with IRB, is conducting serological tests for the detection of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 virus. The results will be provided directly to the participants in the coming weeks and then released in aggregate form. It will also be possible to compare them with the seroprevalence results obtained in the study conducted by the Office of the Cantonal Physician during Phase I of the epidemic.

 

For more information on the study: www.corona-immunitas-ticino.ch   

Contacts: corona-immunitas@supsi.ch, corona-immunitas@usi.ch; Tel. +41 058 666 6930

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