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Attention Queenslanders – Your help needed for landmark COVID-19 study

QIMR Berghofer is playing a major role in a state-wide Queensland Health-led study which aims to unlock critical genetic information to better manage COVID-19 vaccination strategies for the long term.

Adult Queenslanders are urged to volunteer for the Queensland COVID-19 Statewide Study which ultimately aims to determine why individuals have differing immune responses to the various vaccines, combinations of vaccines and to the COVID virus itself.

So if you have had a COVID-19 vaccine in the past 12 months, or have not had any COVID-19 vaccines, the study partners are urging you to consider volunteering for the study to help advance our understanding of the virus and how we react to it and the vaccines.

QIMR Berghofer’s Dr Nic Waddell explains that Queensland is best suited to this globally significant study because such a large proportion of the population was vaccinated prior to being exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

“We need Queenslanders to volunteer because we are the perfect population to determine if there is something in the individual’s immune system that dictates why they had serious reactions to a vaccine, or if they contracted COVID-19, why they did or did not have serious disease,” Dr Waddell said.

QIMR Berghofer’s major role is to analyse the genome sequence data gathered from the study participants and search for variations that may explain differing reactions to the vaccines and the virus.

QIMR Berghofer’s Manager of Bioinformatics, John Pearson said the task is extremely complex and requires the full data-crunching power of the Institute’s High Performance Computer, which was specifically designed for genomics analysis.

“Analysing the genome sequence of a person is a task 100,000 times bigger than analysing the sequence of the virus itself and we believe the circumstance in Queensland make this QoVAX Statewide Study unique in the world. It’s critical to our long term management of COVID-19,” John said.

Director of the QoVAX Statewide Study, Metro North Health’s Professor Janet Davies is appealing to Queenslanders to visit the QoVAX Statewide Study website to learn more.

“Studying immune responses as part of the vaccine lifecycle is a very important process and is consistent with similar studies completed on other vaccines,” Professor Davies said.

“The COVID-19 response has been the largest coordinated vaccination program both in Queensland and across the world and the information gathered in this study will allow us to better understand how the vaccine may need to evolve to combat new variants and also determine who may need more health care to stay well with the virus.”

To participate, eligible Queenslanders will need to complete a consent form and fill out an online questionnaire. If participants agree to give a blood sample, they will be emailed a pathology request form and asked to go to a participating pathology collection centre.

For more information, visit the QoVAX SET Statewide Study website.