1 in 2 children has antibodies against COVID: Report

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Srinagar: The Sero-prevalence Study carried out in a sample district in Kashmir has shown that over 43 percent of people between 7 and 17 years of age have antibodies against SARS-CoV2, a finding that the experts feel will impact their vulnerability in the projected Third Wave. With vaccination unavailable for the less-than-18-years age group yet, many reports have expressed concern that the possible Third Wave may hit the children worst. The assumption has been based on the fact that vaccination, if successfully carried out in all eligible age groups, will offer protection against the known variants of SARS-CoV2.

However, a fresh survey carried out in district Pulwama by GMC Srinagar in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) National Institute of Epidemiology and facilitated by National Institute of Research on Tuberculosis Chennai has some surprising results.

In 43 percent of blood samples taken from people aged between 7 and 17 years, antibodies against SARS-CoV2 have been detected, said Prof M Saleem Khan, head department of Social and Preventive Medicine, GMC Srinagar.

The presence of antibodies in a section of these individuals shows they are not at a significantly higher vulnerability in the Third Wave, he said. “The presence of antibodies in unvaccinated individuals reflects a previous infection of SARS-CoV2,” he said.

Generally antibodies are assumed to offer protection against subsequent infections, however, Prof Khan warned, “Antibodies and immunity cannot be used as synonyms”. The presence of antibodies, he said, was reflective of the community infection, especially among family members.

He said it was difficult to comment about the time of emergence of Third Wave and its severity as the emergence of new variants has been seen to change the entire estimates “as was the case in the Second Wave”.

While discussing the findings, he said, “We have not sampled children aged less than 7 years of age but it is clear that the infections in children and the resulting antibody response is of the range of 50 percent if we further sample younger ones,” he said.

As per the current guidelines in India, vaccination is recommended for people aged 18 years and up, while studies are underway to study the safety of available brands of vaccine in children, none approved yet.

Prof Khan said that the results from district Pulwama can be extrapolated to get an estimate of the risk that children in Kashmir are facing if the Third Wave hits.

He said the national average sero-prevalence in children is over 65 percent and that a similar survey was underway in 10 districts of Kashmir division.

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