FAQs – Antibody Study

About the study

What is the COVID-19 Antibody Study?

The CLSA COVID-19 Antibody Study studies the impact of COVID-19 among older adults in Canada, a population that has been shown to be at greatest risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19 disease. The study will estimate the levels of immunity among older adults and provide a deeper understanding of some of the factors that affect their experience of the disease.

Who is funding this study?

This study is being funded by the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. The mandate of this task force is to describe how widespread the coronavirus infection is in Canada.

Will I receive any benefit from taking part?

While there is no direct benefit to you for participating in the study, your participation in the CLSA COVID-19 Antibody Study will contribute to increasing our understanding of the virus that causes COVID-19 and will help inform public health prevention and control strategies for future outbreaks of this infection.

I haven’t been sick recently and don’t think I’ve had coronavirus. Should I still take part?

Yes. The purpose of the COVID-19 Antibody Study is to determine how widespread previous infection with the coronavirus is among older adults in Canada. We are asking approximately 19,000 CLSA participants to take part regardless of whether they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or had COVID-19 symptoms.

Why are you only recruiting existing CLSA participants? Can my friend/relative participate instead?

This study is recruiting participants already enrolled in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. As a CLSA participant, you have already participated in at least two data collection waves. The rich data included in the CLSA allows researchers to ask important questions about how physical, mental and social health changes over time, and about the short- and long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Is it possible to volunteer for the study?

This study is recruiting a random sample of participants already enrolled in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging.

Providing a blood sample at home

I didn’t send my kit back after taking the sample – do you still want it?

Yes. Make sure you write the date of collection on the label of the return bag and send it back. Samples should be stable for quite some time after collection. However, you ideally want to return it to us within 24 hours of collection.

I didn’t get enough blood and only filled one/two tubes – do you still want it?

Yes, please send it back to us.

What if I am missing a piece of the blood collection kit?

If any items are missing from your kit, please contact the CLSA at info@clsa-elcv.ca or 1-866-999-8303. Do not take a blood sample if items are damaged or missing.

What if a piece of the blood collection kit is damaged?

If any items are damaged in your kit, please contact the CLSA at info@clsa-elcv.ca or 1-866-999-8303. Do not take a blood sample if items are damaged or missing.

When is the best time to take my blood sample?

Your blood sample should be shipped within 24 hours from Monday to Thursday, so you should take the sample sometime between Sunday to Thursday. There is no preferred time of day to collect the sample.

Should I schedule the FedEx pick-up and then do my blood sample?

You may arrange a home pickup or drop off your package at a FedEx designated location. Please follow the How to Package and Return the Sample instructions included in your kit.

To arrange a pick-up, please call FedEx at 1-800-463-3339. It is best that you do this after you have taken the sample and have it packaged, so that you are sure it is ready for pick-up when FedEx arrives. Again, please make sure you return the sample within 24 hours and ship Monday to Thursday.

I didn’t receive/lost my test kit. Could you send me another one?

Yes. Please contact the CLSA at info@clsa-elcv.ca or 1-866-999-8303 to request a new kit.

I didn’t receive/lost the instructions from my kit. Where can I find them?

All instructions are available on our website:

  • Instruction for Use – Blood Collection Device
  • Instructions – How to package and return your sample
I forgot to include my Blood Collection Form in the FedEx package when I returned my blood sample. What should I do?

You can email an electronic copy to info@clsa-elcv.ca or mail the original form to:

Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging
1280 Main St W.
MIP-309A
Hamilton ON L8S 4K1

I didn’t complete my questionnaire on the same day. Can you send me a link to another one?

Your link will still be active whenever you are able to complete the questionnaire. If you are not able to access the questionnaire through the link, please contact the CLSA at info@clsa-elcv.ca or 1-866-999-8303.

Will I receive confirmation that you received my sample?

Due to the high volume of packages being processed by the CLSA, we are not able to notify you when we receive it. However, if we do not receive your sample in one week, we will send a reminder. And again, a week later. If you receive a reminder and have already returned the kit, please let us know.

Will my blood sample collection kit still be delivered if I am not home at the time?

Yes, it will be left at your door if there is a safe place to leave it (such as on a porch). There is nothing sensitive in the kit that prevents it from being used if it was left outside. If FedEx does not feel there is a safe place to leave the kit, they will contact you to arrange another time to drop it off when you are home.

How much water should I drink before I take my sample? When should I drink the water?

You should drink the water prior to collecting your sample. You can just drink until you feel hydrated. There is no specific amount that needs to be consumed.

What if I am unable to collect the sample myself. Can someone help me?

Someone can help you take the sample, but please be sure that they wash their hands with soap and water and dry them before helping you.

How do I dispose of the lancets and other parts of my kit that are not being returned?

You can dispose of all the materials, including the safety lancets, in your regular household garbage.

I didn’t receive the link to the questionnaire. Can you resend it to me?

Yes. Please contact the CLSA at info@clsa-elcv.ca or 1-866-999-8303. If you have already taken your sample and sent it back, please complete the questionnaire as soon as you can. If you haven’t taken your sample yet, please do your best to take it on the same day that you complete the questionnaire.

When will I get my results?

It will take at least 3 months for your test results to be made available to you. The length of time it takes depends on many factors including whether the CLSA staff can remain working during subsequent waves of the pandemic and the capacity of the testing facility.

How will you send me my results?

The results will be sent to you in whatever method you selected at your consent, either by mail or by email.

If I test positive, does that mean I had COVID-19?

The test is for antibodies, which are created when your body fights the virus. So, if you test positive for antibodies, this indicates that you had exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 at some point in the past. Evidence about re-infection with the virus is not clear. Please do not stop following the public health guidelines to protect yourself from exposure to the virus. Wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene, and physically distance from others. Also avoid crowded places, close contact settings and confined or enclosed spaces.

Does this test mean I had COVID-19 when you tested me?

No. This test only captures antibodies in your blood from previous exposure.

Why won’t you give me my results sooner?

Your blood sample is being tested along with many other participants, not one at a time. It will take time for us to collect the number of samples that will be tested together. Your sample will be frozen in the meantime.

I am only leaving the house for essential purposes. Is it still possible to ship my sample?

Yes. If a pickup is required, please follow the return instructions included in your kit. Where possible, leave package outside the door for pickup.

What precautions is FedEx taking during coronavirus?

Information about the precautions Fedex is taking to protect their customers and team members can be found here (https://www.fedex.com/en-ca/coronavirus.html).

Will I get my results?

If you indicated at your consent that you wanted to receive your results, you will receive them. Blood samples will not be analysed immediately and are being collected for research purposes. Please note the CLSA COVID-19 Antibody Study is not a diagnostic test and has no clinical significance to you or your doctor. Participants concerned about having COVID-19 should follow provincial guidance for COVID-19 testing in their region.

I want to change how I receive my results. Is this possible?

We will do our best to accommodate a change, but it may not be possible. Please contact the CLSA at info@clsa-elcv.ca or 1-866-999-8303.

Providing a blood sample at a Data Collection Site

Will I get my results?

If you indicated at your consent that you wanted to receive your results, you will receive them. Blood samples will not be analysed immediately and are being collected for research purposes. Please note the CLSA COVID-19 Antibody Study is not a diagnostic test and has no clinical significance to you or your doctor. Participants concerned about having COVID-19 should follow provincial guidance for COVID-19 testing in their region.

I want to change how I receive my results. Is this possible?

We will do our best to accommodate a change, but it may not be possible. Please contact the CLSA at info@clsa-elcv.ca or 1-866-999-8303.

Is it safe for me to come and have blood drawn?

By leaving your house, you increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19. However, all recommended safety protocols will be followed at the Data Collection Site and all staff will be wearing masks. You will also be required to wear a mask. Physical distancing of two metres will be maintained whenever possible. During the blood draw, the laboratory technician will be wearing a face mask and shield, lab coat and gloves.

If I don’t feel comfortable coming in to give a blood sample, is there another way I can participate?

When you receive the consent script for the study, if you say that you are not interested, you will be asked if you would be willing to participate in a different study, involving collecting a blood sample from your finger at your home. This is the other option. However, if you have already consented to do the blood study, or if you said no to that option, then we are not able to switch you over now.

The number of COVID-19 cases have been increasing in my area. I am not comfortable participating at this time. Is it possible for me to give an in-person blood sample at a later date?

Yes. We are doing three waves of sample collection, one in fall 2020, one starting in January 2021, and one starting in March 2021. Please contact us at info@clsa-elcv.ca or 1-866-999-8303 and let us know that you are interested in participating in a later wave and we will contact you then.

When will I get my results?

It will take at least 3 months for your test results to be made available to you. The length of time it takes depends on many factors including whether the CLSA staff can remain working during subsequent waves of the pandemic and the capacity of the testing facility.

How will you send me my results?

The results will be sent to you in whatever method you selected at your consent, either by mail or by email.

If I test positive, does that mean I had COVID?

The test is for antibodies, which are created when your body fights the virus. So, if you test positive for antibodies, this indicates that you did have COVID-19 at some point in the past.

Does this test mean I had COVID when you tested me?

No. This test only captures antibodies in your blood from previous exposure.

Why won’t you give me my results sooner?

Your samples are being tested along with many other participants, not one at a time. It will take time for us to collect the number of samples that will be tested together. Your samples will be frozen in the meantime.

Do you reimburse my travel or parking expenses?

Your participation in this research study will not involve any costs to you except the time that it takes you to take part in the study. You will be given $30 at your visit to put toward expenses such as parking or other travel-related expenses.

When will I get my results?

It will take at least 3 months for your test results to be made available to you. The length of time it takes depends on many factors including whether the CLSA staff can remain working during subsequent waves of the pandemic and the capacity of the testing facility.

Consent & Withdrawal

Do I have to take part in the CLSA COVID-19 Antibody Study?

No. Your participation in this study is voluntary. You can choose not to take part and your participation in the CLSA study that you have participated in since 2012-2015 will not be affected.

What if I decide I no longer want to take part in the CLSA COVID-19 Antibody Study?

Your participation in the CLSA COVID-19 Antibody Study is voluntary. At any time, you can decide to withdraw. You can do this by phoning our toll-free helpline at 1-866-999-8303 or emailing us at info@clsa-elcv.ca.

Privacy & Confidentiality

How will the CLSA protect my data and personal information?

The CLSA COVID-19 Antibody Study follows the same protocols for protecting your privacy and confidentiality as with the main CLSA study you joined between 2012-2015:

  • Personal information, such as names and phone numbers, are kept in a secure database and are only used to contact participants.
  • The rest of the data collected is de-identified – meaning that collected data is stored in a secure database without names and contact information.
  • The computers that hold participant information are protected by industry-strength firewalls.
  • Only de-identified data collected as part of the CLSA-COVID-19 Antibody Study will be shared for research purposes as per CLSA data sharing policies.
How long will my blood sample be kept for?

The CLSA is designed to exist until 2059. All blood samples are labelled with a unique study number, not your name, at the time of collection. They will be stored long-term in freezers at McMaster University until relevant analyses are completed.

Who should I contact if I have questions about my rights as a research participant?

For questions about the study please contact the CLSA Information Line at 1-866-999-8303 or info@clsa-elcv.ca. If you have any questions regarding your rights as a research participant, please contact the Research Ethics Board associated with your Data Collection Site.