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Understanding COVID-19 Immunity Through Prevalence, Incidence of Antibodies will be Aim of Ongoing State Public Health Study With UMass

UMass Donahue Institute and UMass Amherst Institute for Applied Life Sciences co-lead multi-UMass campus effort

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the University of Massachusetts continue to gather data on the prevalence and incidence of COVID-19 in the state. As a response to improving COVID rates, the study is shifting focus toward the study of antibody prevalence, as well as COVID infections in the general population. 

The state DPH is the study’s sponsor. “This effort will help us understand the actual effect of infection and vaccination in Massachusetts,” said Monina Klevens, director of research and evaluation for the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at DPH.

The University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, the study’s co-lead, will provide project-level management and assist with the analysis and preparation of summary reports. “With the evolving nature of the pandemic — in particular the emergence of new variants and the potential need for vaccine boosters in the coming months —it is important for public policymakers to systematically track both the outbreak of COVID as well as the antibody response in the general population,” said Mark Melnik, director of economic and public policy research at the UMass Donahue Institute.

Study co-lead, UMass Amherst Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), will provide all laboratory testing services through the CLIA-approved IALS Clinical Testing Center (ICTC) and provide clinical and analytical expertise to the project. “This collaboration between DPH and UMass brings together the resources of two major organizations and represents an exciting public health partnership for the state,” said Peter Reinhart, director of IALS and the technical supervisor for ICTC at UMass Amherst.

DPH has awarded $1.9 million to four University of Massachusetts institutes to conduct the statewide program. The University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, the UMass Amherst Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), the UMass Amherst Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) and the Center for Public Opinion at UMass Lowell are collaborating to recruit, enroll and survey a rolling sample of Massachusetts residents. The residents will receive home-based specimen collection kits to facilitate this population-based testing of immune (antibody) response and SARS-CoV-2 infection rates.

The Statewide SARS-CoV-2 Survey of Prevalence and Incidence in Massachusetts study specifically aims to collect and analyze antibody test-result data from a demographically diverse set of selected Massachusetts households. The surveillance project is anticipated to run for at least a year with the option to extend beyond that if needed. Results will be analyzed and shared regularly with DPH to facilitate public health planning and contribute to policy responses.

Potential survey respondents will receive a mailed postcard inviting them to participate along with an offer of a reward in the form of a $25 Amazon gift card. Enrolled participants are also eligible to win a $1,000 Amazon gift card. The goal of the study is to track the extent of COVID infections and antibody responses to this virus in the Massachusetts general population. This will be critically important in the coming months as new variants of the virus are discovered, and health officials seek to determine the long-term effectiveness of the vaccines and explore the possible need for booster shots.

For more information and FAQs, visit the study website: https://www.umass.edu/covidsurvey.

Project Partners

Established in 1971, the UMass Donahue Institute is a public service, research and economic development arm of the University of Massachusetts. Its mission is to apply theory and innovation to solve real-world challenges and enable clients to achieve their goals and aspirations. The institute serves clients in the public, non-profit and private sectors in the Commonwealth and throughout the nation and the world. For more information, visit www.donahue.umass.edu.

The Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), established in 2014 from an investment from the Massachusetts Life Science Center (MLSC) and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, aims to translate fundamental research into innovative product candidates, technologies and services that deliver benefits to human health and well-being. Specific objectives are to: (1) become a catalyst and resource for applied and translational R&D activities; (2) establish industry engagement models and industry collaborations; (3) contribute to workforce development; and (4) participate in the innovation and entrepreneurship culture on campus. Learn more at www.umass.edu/ials.

The Institute for Social Science Research at UMass Amherst provides resources and support for researchers using social science methods who seek to take part in collaborative and interdisciplinary research, do publicly engaged research and seek external funding for research. The institute serves faculty and students across campus, including those from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, College of Education, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Isenberg School of Management, College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and the College of Nursing. For more information, visit www.umass.edu/issr/.

The Center for Public Opinion seeks to further UMass Lowell's academic and strategic objectives through cross-disciplinary research related to political and public opinion trends and behaviors, as well as through polling conducted with integrity and methodological rigor. Visit www.uml.edu/research/public-opinion/

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