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Covid third wave will not pose greater threat to children, reveals WHO-AIIMS survey

Children attend class organised during relaxation hours of Covid-19 lockdown in Jammu.

The WHO-AIIMS seroprevalence study revealed SARS-CoV-2 sero-positivity rate to be high among children and comparable to the adult population. A probable third wave of a prevalent Covid-19 virus variant will not disproportionately affect children than adults, showed a joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

The seroprevalence study revealed SARS-CoV-2 sero-positivity rate to be high among children and comparable to the adult population. The survey covered a total sample size of 10,000 across five selected states. Data of 4,500 participants from four states in India were taken for the results of the time of midterm analysis. More results are expected to come in the next two to three months.

The study found highest reported seroprevalence in any sero-assessment ever in South Delhi’s urban areas at 74.7 per cent, informed Dr Puneet Misra, Professor of Community Medicine at AIIMS, New Delhi, who led the survey.

Even before the second wave, children below the age of 18 in South Delhi had shown seroprevalence as high as 73.9 per cent. “These areas in Delhi and NCR (Faridabad) may have higher seroprevalence after the intense second wave. Probably, these levels of seroprevalence may be protective against any ‘third wave’,” Dr Misra said.

“In congested urban areas of Delhi, since children already have high seroprevalence, opening schools, may after all not be a very risky proposition. During the second wave, the NCR region of Faridabad (rural area) has a seroprevalence of 59.3 per cent (almost equal in both age groups), could be considered high compared to previous national surveys,” the survey said. Gorakhpur Rural showed a very high seroprevalence of 87.9 per cent in the age group 2-18 years) with 80.6 per cent and above 18 years with 90.3 per cent. These levels are likely to ward off the “third wave”. The survey established that rural areas have been mostly affected in, which means more chances of herd immunity.

The accelerated peaks and precipitous decline in Covid-19 cases in both Delhi and Uttar Pradesh could be explained partially by these findings. Overall, more than half (62.3 per cent) of the rural population surveyed showed evidence of past infection. The Agartala Rural site showed the least seroprevalence at 51.9 per cent. This was probably because it also included some tribal population which generally have lower mobility, translating into lower vulnerability to Covid-19 infection.