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Case Study: Action to Beat Coronavirus

Blood Samples from 11,000 Canadians

The Challenge

At the height of the pandemic, ARG had to deliver data about incidence rates and the prevalence of COVID-19 antibodies in the Canadian population.


Over 10,000 Canadians participated in the landmark study, sharing their most personal data: blood samples. Crucial health data informed public policy in Canada, and the results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A lack of data

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Angus Reid Group partnered with the Centre for Global Health Research, Unity Health Toronto, and the University of Toronto to launch the Action to Beat Coronavirus study (ABC)  – a landmark effort in the race to understand what the pandemic meant for Canadians, and the world.

The study would provide crucial information on the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada over time, with periodic survey questionnaires and blood testing for COVID-19 antibodies among a representative sample of adult Canadians sourced from the Angus Reid Forum.

Engaging the Angus Reid Forum

Sample Frame & Methodology

At home blood tests, Nationally Representative

The Angus Reid Group engaged it’s panel, the Angus Reid Forum, to participate. Ultimately, Angus Reid Forum members were mailed over 32,000 at home sample kits over multiple waves of this study.

Participation involved responding to survey questions about health and experiences related to COVID-19, as well as a self-administered fingerpick blood test. The blood sample would be sent back to the research team by mail for analysis.

The study, which came together rapidly in response to a dire need for actionable data, was first deployed in May 2020 – early in the progress of the pandemic in this country. Over 19,000 Canadians completed the first survey, with response rates topping 50%. 10,000 participants opted to participate in at-home blood sampling. Blood samples began to arrive at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto less than three weeks after recruitment began.

Want to learn more about our panel, the Angus Reid Forum?

The Angus Reid Forum


Influencing public health policy in Canada

The ABC study conducted five waves of research among the Canadian population, drawing critical insights about the prevalence of antibodies and the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. This research pointed to Canada having among the lowest national rates of infection/prevalence of antibodies early in the pandemic with approximately 2% of Angus Reid Forum members being positive for antibodies. Other nations ranged from about 1% in Iceland, to over 9% in the United States at that time.

The study also noted that about 30% of those with positive blood antibody tests did not report symptoms, confirming that asymptomatic infections were, and are, common.

The study ultimately informed public health policy in Canada, shed light on prevalence and spread of the COVID-19 virus in this country, and established valuable data for comparison against other nations. Results from the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, citing Angus Reid Group researchers among the authors.

Angus Reid Published in the New England Journal of Medicine

Read the article
The ABC study reached Canadians in nine provinces and one territory, mailing out 32,000 sample kits and processing over 20,000 self-administered blood sample collections.

News Coverage of the ABC Project

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