HALIFAX -- The federal government is hoping thousands of Maritimers will be willing to sacrifice a few drops of blood to help get a better picture of just how widespread COVID-19 has been.

Thousands of antibody test-kits are being mailed-out to randomly selected Canadians, and officials are urging those who get them to send-back blood samples.

After more than a hundred days in a COVID-coma, Al Poirier was happy to get out of the Valley Regional in Kentville, but even now -- six months later -- he's not exactly back to old self.

"Well, he has some lingering side-effects in his extremities, his legs and in his hands, but overall, he's doing great," said Debra Poirier.

While Al's case was life-and-death, Debra's was mild -- little more than a headache.

Now, the government is doubling down on finding other cases that may have gone under the radar.

Thousands of Canadians have already received test-kits and surveys in the mail, part of a large study to find-out how many have actually had COVID-19 by looking for antibodies.

Even with vaccines rolling-out, officials say the work is vital.

"Many of them may not have had any symptoms and so this will give us a better idea beyond the case count as to just how far this virus has spread," said Dr. Catherine Hankins, the co-chair of COVID-19 immunity task force.

There will be 3,500 in each of our Atlantic provinces, along with instructions and a survey.

"And what they're going to be asked to do is use a lancet, and make a small poke on their finger and fill what we call a DVS card," said Shi Peter Jiao, the Stats Canada project lead.

Officials insist privacy will be paramount, but there is an option for users to get their test results back.

"Well, I think it's a great idea," said Debra Poirier. "Any information we can glean to help fight this virus, I'm all for it."

The $7-million initiative runs through the end of March. Although COVID-19 has affected all of us, officials say that's plenty of time to get a better idea of how many have already battled it -- and won.