The evolution of SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in Canada: a time-series study, 2020-2023

CMAJ. 2023 Aug 14;195(31):E1030-E1037. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.230249.


Background: During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the proportion of reported cases of COVID-19 among Canadians was under 6%. Although high vaccine coverage was achieved in Canada by fall 2021, the Omicron variant caused unprecedented numbers of infections, overwhelming testing capacity and making it difficult to quantify the trajectory of population immunity.

Methods: Using a time-series approach and data from more than 900 000 samples collected by 7 research studies collaborating with the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF), we estimated trends in SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence owing to infection and vaccination for the Canadian population over 3 intervals: prevaccination (March to November 2020), vaccine roll-out (December 2020 to November 2021), and the arrival of the Omicron variant (December 2021 to March 2023). We also estimated seroprevalence by geographical region and age.

Results: By November 2021, 9.0% (95% credible interval [CrI] 7.3%-11%) of people in Canada had humoral immunity to SARS-CoV-2 from an infection. Seroprevalence increased rapidly after the arrival of the Omicron variant - by Mar. 15, 2023, 76% (95% CrI 74%-79%) of the population had detectable antibodies from infections. The rapid rise in infection-induced antibodies occurred across Canada and was most pronounced in younger age groups and in the Western provinces: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Interpretation: Data up to March 2023 indicate that most people in Canada had acquired antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 through natural infection and vaccination. However, given variations in population seropositivity by age and geography, the potential for waning antibody levels, and new variants that may escape immunity, public health policy and clinical decisions should be tailored to local patterns of population immunity.

MeSH terms

  • Alberta
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies


  • Antibodies, Viral

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants