‘Two-thirds of Indians have COVID-19 antibodies but 40 crore people still vulnerable’


New Delhi: As the threat of the third wave of COVID-19 looms large, the Centre on Tuesday (July 20, 2021) informed that two-thirds of the Indians have developed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies but 40 crore people are still vulnerable.

Citing ICMR’s fourth national COVID-19 serosurvey that was conducted in June and July, the Centre said that the overall seroprevalence was 67.6 per cent. It involved over 28,975 individuals (adults and children), apart from 7,252 healthcare workers, in 70 districts across 21 states where earlier three rounds were also conducted.

During a media briefing on the COVID-19 situation, ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava said, “Two-thirds of the general population above the age of six, or 67.6 per cent were found to have SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the latest national serosurvey.”

He added, “A third of the population did not have SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, which means approximately 40 crore people are still vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.”

The ICMR chief informed that those without antibodies run the risk of infection waves. 

He stated that in ICMR’s fourth national COVID-19 serosurvey, which included 2,892 in the 6-9 years age group, 5,799 in 10-17 and 20,284 those aged 18 years and above, the seroprevalence in the age group of 6-9 years was 57.2 per cent, in 10-17 years age group, it was 61.6 per cent, in 18-44 years, it was 66.7 per cent, while in 45-60 years age group, it was 77.6 per cent and in over 60 years, it was around 76.7 per cent. 

The seroprevalence in rural areas was found to be 66.7 per cent and slightly higher in urban at 69.6 per cent.

Seroprevalence, notably, is the percentage of individuals in a population who have antibodies to an infectious agent. 

In the third serosurvey conducted in December-January, the seroprevalence was 24.1 per cent.

The ICMR Director-General said that the findings show there is a ray of hope, but there is no room for complacency and COVID-appropriate behaviour and community engagement have to be maintained.

Bhargava also said that 85 per cent of the surveyed healthcare workers had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and one-tenth of HCWs were still unvaccinated.

Amongst the adult population, there was no coronavirus vaccine in 12,607, that is 62.2 per cent, while 24.8 per cent or 5,038 people surveyed in the adult population had taken one dose of vaccination, while 13 per cent or 2,631 individuals had received both doses.

As per vaccination status, the seroprevalence was seen in 62.3 per cent among unvaccinated people, 81 per cent among those who took a single dose of the vaccine while it was 89.8 per cent among fully vaccinated people.

The ICMR chief said that the state heterogeneity indicates the possibility of future waves of infection. 

“There might be some states where the population which is vulnerable is much higher there, so chances of future waves are higher in those states,” he added.

Bhargava warned that societal, public, religious and political congregations should be avoided and non-essential travels should be discouraged and travel only if fully vaccinated.

During the media briefing, NITI Aayog Member (Health ) Dr VK Paul said 40 crore people have no antibodies and the pandemic is in no way over.

“The second wave is still persisting and the danger of new outbreaks is still very much there,” he said.

On the situation in the country, Paul said that Kerala is still ‘static to slight rise’ and Maharashtra is seeing some decline.

“Andhra Pradesh is still a cause of concern and 46 districts have more than 10 per cent positivity,” he informed.

(With PTI inputs)

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